Sunday, April 11, 2010

Why Feedback Needs to be Immediate

Every manager knows he or she should give an employee immediate feedback when the worker performs below expectations. But sometimes managers fail to do what they know they should do because they are afraid of the reaction they may get when they confront the employee.

Managers who delay giving feedback to their employees do a disfavor to all concerned. They cause more problems by not confronting the employee than they would by confronting the employee immediately.

When a rocket goes off course the best time to give it feedback is as soon as the discrepancy occurs. If caught early, the course can be corrected with a short burst of the rocket thrusters. The longer the rocket goes off course the more fuel it will require to get it back on the right trajectory. And, if caught to late, there may not be enough fuel to correct the deviation. When this happens the rocket has to be destroyed.

The situation is the same regarding employee performance. When an employee goes off course the best time to give him or her feedback is as soon as the digression occurs. When caught early very little energy is required to make the correction. The longer the employee travels down the wrong path the more energy it will take to change the employee’s performance. Not only will the employee have to do more to change, but the manager also must exert a lot of energy to get the employee to make the course correction.

Managers who delay giving feedback to off-target employees cause problems for themselves. When an employee has been doing the wrong thing for an extended time, and then is finally confronted with the error, the worker is more likely to respond poorly to the feedback than they would have had the feedback been given earlier. Belated feedback incites a great deal of resistance. The employee typically retorts with such comments as: “How come you didn’t tell me this earlier”; “This is the way I’ve always done it”; “This is how I was trained to do it”; or “There’s nothing wrong with the way I’ve been doing it.”

When feedback is delayed it invariably causes the employee to focus on the path they have been on rather than the corrective path they need to follow. They argue about where they have been rather than accept where they need to go.

Late feedback also causes the employee to focus on the manager rather than focus on his or herself. They often accuse the manager of being wrong rather than accepting that their own performance is wrong. Instead of using their energy to make the course correction they waste time and energy fighting the feedback they’re given. Rather than immediately getting back on track they stand their ground and defend the course they are on.

Immediate feedback is much easier on both the employee and the manager. The earlier the feedback is given to the employee the easier it is to accept the correction and the less energy it takes to change one’s behavior.

The sooner the manager delivers the feedback the less likely the employee will respond negatively to the feedback and use their energy to attack the manager rather than attacking the problem. Immediate feedback gets immediate positive results.

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with this post, however, it is also important to remember that feedback should also follow good performance, not just poor performance. It would be a shame for a good behavior to go extinct because feedback was not soon enough after the event.