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Getting the best from your staff


It is important to give feedback in the right way in order to boost performance

Imagine you have been promoted to manager, and you need to give one of your employees named Phil a performance review. Phil has been the longest serving member of the team, and is a hardworking and committed individual, however his downbeat demeanour is a cause for concern and he has a negative attitude towards change. The time has come for you to see if Phil is willing to change his actions or if you need to start a disciplinary process, which could lead to the termination of his contract.

Are the following points happening frequently?

»There is an increasing distrust between you and the team;

»Team members are avoiding responsibility;

»Team morale is suffering.

If this sounds like your workplace, then you need a change and you need it fast.

Phil may think because he is punctual, reliable and does what is asked he is a fantastic employee and may not be aware of the detrimental effect his actions are having on the team.

Your team may feel Phil receives preferential treatment as his actions clearly do not promote the company ethos, and yet he is never reprimanded, and as a result they may feel discriminated against. They may also feel staff welfare is not of importance to your company.

How to give feedback

● Basic assertion. A statement of where you stand, your needs and wants. If you need to mention praise and criticism together decouple them from each other so they can both be heard. Upon resistance go to step 2
● Question assertion. This invites a response. For example: “It must be hard to sift through unimportant and important data. How do you do that and get it right each time?”
● Empathy. This shows others that you are aware of their feeling and have taken them on board

Maintaining a positive mindset will help you when talking with Phil. Think of win-win situations to help get you through, for example, I’m seen to manage difficult situations and change inappropriate behaviour: the team sees we practise what

we preach.

Research studies on the effects of giving feedback have demonstrated that performance after the interaction is likely to get worse on those aspects of the work on which the job holder has been most criticised.

Similar studies reveal that feedback in the form of praise is regarded as mere politeness. Does this mean feedback is a waste of time? Or does this indicate there is something wrong with the way praise and criticism are given? Both practical research and experience support the latter. Many employers and managers are crying out for feedback: “tell me what I need to do to improve”. Skilful feedback can improve performance.

Negative feedback is often more common than positive feedback. One way to change the culture in an organisation is to redress the balance in favour of praise.

● This article is adapted from Assertiveness: How To Be Strong in Every Situation by Conrad and Suzanne Potts (Capstone, £10.99). Available from


Suzanne Potts is a motivational speaker in assertiveness, who keynote speaks for conferences and corporate events. Conrad Potts is a psychologist and corporate training consultant who has expertise in change management, performance improvement and motivation


Readers' comments (5)

  • tinkerbell

    i recently mentioned this article to a newly promoted staff member. She said 'don't need it i'll just tell em to do their job'. Good luck with that approach.

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  • john warwick

    typical to blame phil because he has been there the longest and someone from out side is given the position instead of promoting from with in Phil has been there done that and knows that it is all bs the NHS doesnt want to change just put the blame on some one else not the manager

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  • "Imagine you have been promoted to manager..."

    it looks as though the article has been written by this fictitious manager him/herself who it is made obviously has very little experience of dealing with such matters. the content has little to do with the title of the article.

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  • 'motivational speaker in assertiveness'

    sounds a couchy job!

    on second thoughts, how about engaging or training one for each team.

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  • I'd be interested to see how this was responded to on the ground in the NHS. A real event sequel would be great follow up

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