How to best give feedback to a junior employee?

To give feedback effectively to a junior employee, consider the following steps, which are based on insights from executive coach Ed Batista:

  1. Assess Your Motivations: Reflect on why you're motivated to provide feedback. Be honest with yourself about your need for control and whether your feedback is influenced by a preference for your own working style. Understand that critical feedback often reflects a desire for the other person to change, which may be driven by your own discomfort or need for control in the relationship. [6] [7] [9]

  2. Invest in the Relationship: Before providing feedback, ensure that you have built a solid relationship with the employee. They should know that you care about their feelings and professional development. This investment creates trust and makes it more likely that your feedback will be received positively. [15]

  3. Choose the Right Moment: Timing is crucial. Allow enough time after an incident so that emotions have settled, but not so much time that the details become hazy. Ensure that both you and the employee are in the right frame of mind for the conversation. [3] [10]

  4. Be Specific and Focus on Behaviors: Clearly describe the specific behaviors that prompted the feedback. Avoid generalities and focus on concrete actions. This specificity helps prevent the conversation from devolving into an argument about what did or did not occur. [10] [11]

  5. Express Your Emotional Response: Use "I" statements to communicate how the employee's behavior has affected you. Be careful to use the appropriate feeling-words to capture their interest and avoid triggering defensiveness. Remember that while you can accurately report your feelings, the other party isn't obligated to care about them. [12] [15]

  6. Stay on Your Side of the Net: Discuss your emotional response without making assumptions about the employee's motives or intentions. This helps to prevent the conversation from becoming accusatory and reduces the likelihood of triggering a defensive response. [12] [13]

  7. Understand Their Goals: Relate the feedback to the employee's apparent goals and intentions. Show them how their behavior may not be helping them advance their interests. This approach leverages the impulse to appear consistent with one's stated commitments and can motivate change. [16] [17] [18]

  8. Discuss Broader Impacts: If the behavior is achieving the employee's goals but at a significant cost, such as damaging relationships or reputation, share these insights carefully. Highlight the hidden costs of their behavior without overwhelming them. [20] [21]

  9. Reflect on Your Contribution: Consider how you might be part of the problem. All behavior is adaptive, and the employee's actions may be a response to the environment or dynamics you've created. Acknowledge your role in the situation to shift the conversation from blame to problem-solving. [27] [28] [29] [30]

  10. Follow Up: Treat feedback as an ongoing dialogue rather than a one-time event. Consistent follow-up helps make feedback a normal part of organizational life, rather than a stressful, exceptional occurrence. [1] [3]

By following these steps, you can provide feedback that is thoughtful, specific, and more likely to be constructive for the junior employee's professional growth. Remember that the goal is to facilitate change and improvement, not to assert control or vent frustration.