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Providing guidance, feedback, and encouragement
  • Train supervisors on how to have important conversations with the team, such as providing guidance, feedback, and encouragement.

A major part of any supervisor’s job is developing employees. This may require providing training, guidance, feedback, encouragement, or correction. Employers might assume that an experienced supervisor already knows how to handle these things. Unfortunately, the supervisor may not be doing so as intended.

Whether the guidance provided is supportive or corrective, supervisors must know how to handle a variety of possible responses. When correcting an employee’s error, the employee will hopefully accept the correction and move on. However, some employees may respond with anger (“We’ve always done it my way!”) or may even break down in tears (“I can’t do anything right!”). The supervisor must be able to effectively address any response.

Obviously, the employee’s response will also depend on the way the corrective advice is given. An approach that is too strong or demanding for the circumstances may generate resentment, even if the employee doesn’t voice this feeling and becomes increasingly frustrated with the supervisor. Conversely, an overly gentle approach may come across as a mere suggestion that could be ignored.

Even giving positive feedback or encouragement may require training. High-performing employees require encouragement just as much as low-performing employees require correction. Every supervisor knows how to simply say, “Great job on that project.” However, if valued employees have not received more encouragement than an occasional “good job” for several months, the lack of feedback may start to affect morale. Training supervisors on ideas for giving feedback might include offering suggestions such as:

  • Writing a positive letter, showing it to the employee, and placing it in the worker’s personnel file;
  • Providing a small reward in recognition of an accomplishment, such a movie tickets or a gift card;
  • Pointing out accomplishments and contributions during staff meetings; and/or
  • Mentioning an employee’s value to coworkers, knowing that the team will probably inform the employee about those remarks.

When a problem occurs, train supervisors to focus feedback on the end goal, rather than the problem. This will allow everyone involved to move forward more productively. It is difficult, however, for anyone to take personal responsibility if the employee is unclear about what those responsibilities are. Help managers eliminate as much confusion as possible by communicating expectations to workers, and training managers to give quality feedback.