Seven ways to give feedback without losing employee motivation

It’s essential that new and experienced managers alike learn how to give advice that fuels self-motivation, rather than blowing it out

Seven ways to give feedback without losing employee motivation

Business Strategy


It’s now widely agreed that the more autonomy and ownership employees have the more motivated they’ll be. At the same time, there has been little talk about how exactly managers can implement this in practice.

It’s essential that new and experienced managers alike learn exactly how to give advice that fuels self-motivation, rather than blowing it out.

Here are seven tips to keep in mind:

1. Are you looking at feedback with a growth mindset?

A recent Gallup report highlighted that what millennial employees actually want is more feedback, though only 15% routinely ask for it. The report also found that only 19% receive it regularly. It’s not just praise that they’re looking for either. A study by Zenger/Folkman found that 57% of people would actually prefer to receive constructive over positive feedback. A further 92% agreed that, if given appropriately, constructive feedback is effective at improving performance.

2. Consider the personality of each individual

While there are certain rules to giving feedback correctly, if you get to know each of your teammates well you can more easily adjust your approach to fit their personality. For example, some people like to receive feedback in person so they can talk it through on the spot. Others may prefer time to reflect on their feedback before discussing it with you. If you’re having trouble figuring out the feedback personality of your team, check out our guide on different personality types in the workplace and how to give feedback to each of them.

3. Focus on improvement, not mistakes

For all personality types, it’s important to frame your feedback in a constructive, rather than reproving manner. Rather than dwelling on the past think about the future. Rather than taking it from the perspective of, “This and this didn’t go well” instead speak in terms of “next time if we change or add this I believe we can improve performance on this project/task.”

4. Fuel their motivation further

The best way to do this is to help them recognize their strengths and past successes so that they can leverage them to overcome obstacles. Gallup found that employees who use their strengths everyday are 3 times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, 6 times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.

5. Avoid killing projects altogether

Sometimes it may not be a mistake or failure of a project that causes it to be shut down. Sudden shifts in strategy or focus can also lead to realignment in your company and thereby team goals. In an inspirational TEDTalk, Dan Ariely describes a situation he encountered at a large tech company in Seattle. A tech team had been tasked to create a new cutting edge product. Suddenly, in the midst of its execution, the team was told that the company decided to go in a different direction and the project was shelved.

6. Allow for creativity

Not everyone will approach a problem in the same way. Leaving space for trying new things (and most importantly, eliminating fear of failure) is the best way to generate innovation. If you find yourself saying “we always do things this way” or “let’s not rock the boat” it could be a signal to step back and allow for more risk taking within your team.

7. Learn by doing

Think about the impact of the decision your employee is making. Remember that you can teach someone how to do something but ultimately the best way to learn is by doing. If it’s a small decision that could serve as a learning opportunity, let them make it and be ready to give advice on how to improve next time. Getting the chance to decide and then seeing the results will make them much more likely to come to you and be open for feedback.

The preceding article was originally published on our sister site Learning & Development.

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