Stressed About the Great Resignation? Be a Better Boss by Improving Feedback.

Three local leaders give advice for sharing authentic, helpful feedback with employees.
Written by Eva Roethler
September 16, 2021Updated: September 20, 2021

The Great Resignation is on the minds of employers everywhere, and managers are under extra pressure to retain top talent. After all, employees don’t leave companies. They leave bad bosses. 

One of the best ways to be a better boss is through meaningful positive feedback. According to data collected by HR engagement platform Officevibe, 83 percent of employees say they appreciate feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. Meanwhile, 63 percent of employees feel like they don’t get enough praise. 

Feedback is essential for career growth, and positive feedback is key for an employee to feel valued. In fact, according to the same Officevibe data, most employees would rather receive praise than a gift for a job well done.  As a manager, the first step is to learn about an employee’s communication style to understand what they value most in feedback.

But, while everyone loves receiving praise, some may struggle to dish it out without feeling corny, awkward or inauthentic. Built In SF talked to three local managers for their advice on how to offer meaningful positive feedback to employees. 

Austin Fonacier
Engineering Manager

Shift Technologies is an automotive e-commerce company. 

 

As a manager, what can you do to make sure the positive feedback you give is truly meaningful?

Feedback is the most important tool we have to ensure team members are happy and productive. Making sure I give truly meaningful feedback is paramount to being an effective leader. I have found a few things that make giving meaningful feedback a lot easier.

Regular one-on-ones are some of the most important meetings I have with each employee. I make the most of my limited time with each person, whether it be building rapport or giving and receiving feedback. This allows me to make a personal connection with each person. 

Lastly, it feels minor, but celebrating the wins on the team can not be overlooked! Celebrating everyone helps build a healthy engineering culture.

 

When offering feedback, how do you adapt your communication style or setting to suit the personality of the employee?

Each employee is different with their own communication style, needs and personality. I like to get to know each employee. I want to understand where they are in their career. What do they love doing? What do they hate? What skill sets they are building? Once I understand who each employee is, I can start to cater my communication style to each one. 

Each employee needs to have an open line of communication so I can know what is working, what isn’t working and, most importantly, how I can change my management style to better suit their needs. Evolving as a manager to match the needs of each member of the group allows us to curate a diverse and healthy team.

I like to get to know each employee. I want to understand where they are in their career. What do they love doing? What do they hate? What skill sets they are building?”

 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from giving feedback over the years that you wished you’d known when you first started as a manager?

Be an effective communicator. Learning to be clear and concise with my communication and expectations has saved me so many headaches over the years I can’t even count. This is especially important in the remote culture that we all live in nowadays. 

Secondly, be consistent with your feedback and communications. Whether my communications come in the form of weekly round-up emails, weekly planning meetings, or even regular one-on-ones, it is key to keep them at the top priority every week. Setting communication expectations consistently creates more alignment throughout the organization. Communication will start to feel effortless and second nature if commitment is made to make it more regular.

 

 

Sonya Thompson
Regional Underwriting Manager

Better is a fintech and real estate company. 

 

As a manager, what can you do to make sure the positive feedback you give is truly meaningful?

Feedback is powerful. As a manager, it is one of our most important responsibilities. Feedback has to be both ongoing and intentional. I know the power feedback has for me, so I strive to make feedback timely and effective for my employees. 

As managers, we can spend too much time on negative feedback. As a result, we can miss the opportunity to provide positive feedback that sparks drive in employees. When I am aware of anyone's impact on a positive change, I like to reach out directly and acknowledge it. This lets the employee know that they are seen and their efforts are making a difference overall. I make sure I have the details so my feedback is robust and correct — no one wants positive feedback that misses the mark. I like to celebrate success within the organization to create an environment that promotes positivity and transparency. Feedback is infectious. I know we are doing things right when we see team members recognizing one another!
 

When offering feedback, how do you adapt your communication style or setting to suit the personality of the employee?

When I begin to work with a new team member, I always ask about their communication style. Once you know how the person communicates, you can deliver the feedback in a manner that will be received and appreciated. Adapting my style means I understand the delivery that is needed, I know the length of time to deliver the message and I know how it is going to be received. 

Preparation is key when going into a feedback conversation. For example, I cannot enter a meeting with low energy for a high-energy employee. My approach is to connect with the person at the onset of our conversation and then move into the feedback. This helps gauge how the conversation will go. When you are in the moment, you have to be able to pivot when needed to keep it going in the right direction. The key is to know the employee.
 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from giving feedback over the years that you wished you’d known when you first started as a manager?

Feedback is wanted whether it is good or bad. We have to be diligent and authentic when delivering it. Empty feedback can be spotted from a mile away. Giving more context is what makes the feedback impactful and demonstrates the need to be prepared for the conversation. 

Empty feedback can be spotted from a mile away.”

 

Early on in my career, I recall situations where I was not prepared to give feedback and the session was spent playing defense. It was uncomfortable and not fair to the employee I was supposed to be coaching. I made the conscious decision to prepare for those meaningful conversations and I put myself on the other side and began to understand the failure I had experienced. Going forward, I now have a pulse on the message and the recipient. Feedback is meaningful on all fronts and I have to make sure it is received with the intent planned. 

Thanking someone is one of the easiest acts of feedback.

 

 

Shirley Lin
VP of Product

Divvy Homes offers an alternative pathway to homeownership. 

 

As a manager, what can you do to make sure the positive feedback you give is truly meaningful?

Be authentic. I always approach feedback from a place of wanting the best for the other person — empowering them to do their best work, supporting their career growth and driving impact for the company. Giving feedback for the right reasons ensures that the feedback is more likely to be motivating. 

Be direct, give concrete examples, then support. I do my preparation and imagine that I had to convey the entirety of my feedback in just one sentence, which is how I start a verbal feedback conversation. 

 

Shirley Lin’s Fill-In-The-Blank Feedback Example

  1. Give the TL;DR. “When we are in meetings, I feel _____.”
  2. Give a concrete example. “During the meeting on Wednesday, ____”
  3. Explain the impact. “The result was ____”
  4. Give some space, and then discuss ways you can jointly address any issues.

 

When offering feedback, how do you adapt your communication style or setting to suit the personality of the employee?

I try to show instead of tell. For example, I was in a Zoom meeting where one of my teammates was getting frustrated during a debate. He had his arms crossed and a very animated and frustrated facial expression. When I brought this to his attention at a later, appropriate time, we had a good laugh, and he was honestly surprised by how he showed up in that meeting, given he didn’t feel as frustrated as he appeared. 


 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned from giving feedback over the years that you wished you’d known when you first started as a manager?

Giving actionable and valuable feedback is the most crucial input to accelerating growth. As someone who is an eternal optimist, I’ve had to invest time and effort into being able to have challenging feedback conversations. I’ve learned by watching, receiving feedback myself and gauging how feedback lands for different personalities and in different scenarios. 

Feedback should be continuous and actionable. Feedback is often centered around performance review cycles, but employees often complain that they otherwise get little actionable feedback. Interestingly, top performers often get the least feedback, being told to just keep doing what they’re doing. 

Continuous feedback that is clear and actionable provides positive reinforcement for what someone is doing well and provides clarity around development opportunities. The ideal scenario is for your teammate to feel like they can make frequent and small changes over time to address growth areas, rather than be surprised by a large batch of feedback every six months.

 

 

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