On a recent Sunday I went out with my family for breakfast at a pancake house. We were seated at a table next to a family made up of a mother, a father, a young boy in a booster chair, and an infant in the mother’s lap.
Before we had even opened our menus, we heard the parents make these remarks loudly to the boy, whom I will call Joey:
- Joey, don’t take such small bites. Take big bites, Joey.
- Joey, sit up straight in your chair. Don’t slouch.
- Joey, don’t hold your fork with a limp wrist.
I can’t tell you more about the commentary on Joey because I discreetly asked the host to move us to table in a different part of the restaurant. I wanted to have a pleasant meal, and I couldn’t stand hearing more feedback on Joey’s behavior.
Management guru Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” I don’t think Joey would agree. My moments near his family made feedback seem like the breakfast of losers. It was all negative and hard to hear, even for me. Imagine how Joey felt.
Feedback needs to be constructive—to build up the person who receives it.
Here's the business writing angle:
If you give feedback to employees in writing, think about your audience as you write. Less experienced employees need to know what they are doing right as well as what they need to do better. Even the newest employee is doing something right, whether it is simply reporting to work on time, smiling, or avoiding personal calls and text messages. Those basic behaviors are hugely important, and they need to be praised.
I think of Joey, who needed to know it was terrific that he was talking softly and eating his breakfast rather than tossing it at his baby sibling.
Very experienced employees may not need to know what they are doing well (because they already know that), but they need their positive performance recognized in writing, along with suggestions for improvement. They need acknowledgment for their hard work and successes, not just in the form of a bonus for goals achieved. Getting positive feedback simply feels good!
If there was an “experienced performer” in our breakfast situation, it might have been Joey’s father. His mother might have told Joey's father she appreciated his willingness to go out for Sunday breakfast, especially when it was his only day to sleep in. He might have already known he was a good guy for doing it but appreciated hearing it from his wife.
They say a healthy breakfast builds strong bodies. Well, balanced feedback builds good performance and better relationships.
I am not sure pancakes, while delightfully delicious, make a healthy breakfast. But I am sure about balanced feedback.
Do my remarks inspire you to comment about giving or getting written feedback—or to go out for pancakes?