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Feedback – Do You Provide It?

Everyone likes to know one’s doing well.  Everyone needs to know if one is not doing well.  The question for employers is, have you ever directly told your employees where they stand at work or are you just presuming (hoping) they know? 

Corrective action, discipline, write ups, counseling, and evaluations are just a few of the monikers we put on the concept of feedback, but no matter what you call it, it’s a valuable concept.  Productivity increases when employee performance is judged.  Not just because someone is looking, although sometimes that helps, but also because weaknesses can be seen and corrected.  Morale also can increase as employees feel they are appreciated and recognized.  Finally, legal liabilities go down.  For the moment, this last issue is our focus.

Most of the cases we see where a lawsuit is brought challenging an employer decision, be it discipline, discharge, raises or promotions, the employee claims “I was surprised.”  This stems from either no feedback or worse yet, misleading feedback.  In three of the recent suits we defended for management, the employees claimed they were never told about their performance deficiencies and they had no idea discharge was looming.  In some instances no evaluations or write ups existed, but in a majority of instances, evaluations did exist and they contradicted management’s claim that the employees were poor performers.

To improve productivity, to be fair to your team and to increase your chances of avoiding litigation, tell your employees where they stand.  If there are weaknesses, be direct.  You might be surprised when you learn your employee had no idea this was an issue.  The employee may even offer you a solution which you never considered.   Do not let the fear of time consuming discipline or evaluation programs cloud your judgment.  A simple three line note can get you on the road to meaningful feedback, higher productivity and less litigation.   And, your employees will thank you.