Immediate and Specific Feedback Is Best

“When I give performance feedback to employees, I want them to listen to what I’m saying. If they argue, get defensive, or give me body language that indicates a bad attitude, I’m not going to waste any more of my time. If they mess up again, I’ll just fire them.”

          Is that the gospel according to Donald Trump or is it Simon Cowell? Neither. It’s your garden- variety supervisor, manager, or business owner.

“I don’t bother giving feedback anymore”, says a local supervisor, “because it backfires. The employee takes it personally, sulks, whispers to friends about how unreasonable, biased, or mean I am, and ends up doing a worse job than before.  What’s my solution? I avoid the discussion and advertise for a replacement.”

          Think that person’s alone? Catch this…

Give feedback. Are you kidding? I’d rather have a root canal! The women cry, the men argue, the teenagers shrug and say, ‘whatever’. I end up doing their jobs and mine, working late and on weekends. I have so much turnover here you’d think we manufactured spatulas.”

          Is there a flip side to the story? Absolutely.

“My boss is such a micromanager I want to quit. I mean, why bother? Everything I do he changes, corrects, and critiques. He hasn’t complimented me since I’ve been here. Once I told him. ‘Mr. Jones’, I said, (that’s not really his name) ‘ I try really hard to please you and do everything you ask me to do. You never tell me I’m doing a good job.’ You know what he said? He said, ‘Amy (that’s not my name either), I shouldn’t have to praise you for what I’m paying you to do.’  Then, he said, all angry, ‘Why are you wasting my time with this nonsense? Get back to work.’ Do you believe it?”

          This is from a mid level supervisor at a local manufacturing plant:

“I have a good boss and I know he means well. He just doesn’t know how to give feedback. He tells me what to do instead of asking me to solve the problem myself. He’s old school, doesn’t give praise, yet he’s always telling us how his boss doesn’t appreciate him, that he’d like a ‘thank you’ every so often. He’s under a lot of pressure at work and has a lot on him at home, too. His boss is tough on him, micro-manages him, and he turns around and micro-manages us. We’ve had cut backs and there’s no telling when the head office will announce more. I cut him slack more than others do because I know him better than most. He’s real private, and stays away from his employees unless he has reason to come out of his office which usually is because someone’s messed up and he’s going to yell at them. I’m glad I’m not in his shoes, but if I were, I believe I could do a better job managing people than he does.”

          And finally, an example that makes working for someone worth the effort:

“I learned a long time ago that if you want to bring out the best in people you match their strengths to where they can do the best job. When they succeed, I succeed, and the company does well. That keeps us all employed. I call that the ultimate win.

I’ve learned to give employees immediate and specific feedback when they do a good job, and give them immediate specific feedback when they miss out on an opportunity to do something well. I involve them in solving problems because they’re the ones who have the responsibility for getting the job done right. I train and develop them to do more; to think tactically as well as strategically.  I give them opportunities to think independently and at the same time teach them the necessity of succeeding as a team.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the match isn’t there. When that happens, despite my best intentions, feedback, and counsel, I’ve learned to manage the person out of the department, sometimes out of the company, and into something that makes better sense for who they are, not who I want them to be.”

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Joyce Richman ( has been specializing in executive and career coaching since she started her own practice in 1982. She works in a variety of environments including: higher education, manufacturing, sales, marketing, media, technology, pharmaceuticals, medicine, banking and finance, service, IT, and non-profit sectors. A member of the adjunct faculty at the Center for Creative Leadership, Joyce is certified to administer a number of feedback and psychological instruments. Joyce has appeared regularly on WFMY-TV and is the career columnist for The Greensboro News & Record. She is the author of Roads, Routes and Ruts: A Guidebook to Career Success and co-author of Getting Your Kid Out of the House and Into a Job. A popular speaker, Richman conducts seminars and workshops throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Her coaching profile can be found at