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How can I give good feedback to junior staff?

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I often have to give feedback to junior members of staff. I am not sure I am doing this correctly. What are the main points I need to consider?.

The ability to give constructive feedback is crucial to the success of any professional relationship. Feedback is what we do when we offer our evaluations of someone else’s behaviour or performance.

Feedback in the form of recognition can motivate people. It can show nurses that their manager cares about them enough to tell them the truth. How often have you felt good about yourself when someone praises a piece of work you have done?

There are basically two types of feedback. Informal feedback might be a chance opportunity to tell someone you have appreciated their particular efforts. This might be at the end of a difficult shift on the ward or in a chance meeting. Formal feedback as the name suggests should be more structured. Examples include appraisals, discussions following a particular piece of work, or following an unsuccessful job interview.

So what are the main points to consider? First, think about what you actually say. Be specific. Statements such as ‘that was a job well done’ do not go far enough. What specific aspect of the performance did you like and why?

Then there is the manner of the feedback. You should be direct when delivering the message and avoid giving mixed messages. It should be done face to face and in private. Tell the staff member exactly what you have observed. If possible give dates and places. You may have made a written record of observations over a period of time. Make use of these notes. Most of all involve the person in the discussion.

Although you should be able to offer some solutions, the person concerned should be encouraged to participate in the problem solving. Asking them how they think their performance is going is often a good starting point.

Remember, you are giving feedback to correct a problem, not to browbeat the person concerned. Summarise the discussion at the end so that you both understand what has been said and agreed. If necessary arrange a follow-up meeting to review progress.

Chris Pearce, formerly a director of nursing, is a life coach with lifegoalspecialists.co.uk

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