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How to Get Honest Feedback from Employees

October 31, 2016

Constructive feedback is critical for any business to grow. You must encourage and ask for employee feedback, but even then, you may not be getting the full picture. Employees might avoid being honest with managers for a number of reasons:

  • They might worry that rocking the boat with negative comments could cause managers to write negative reviews or pass them over for a promotion.
  • They feel their opinions aren’t heard or don’t matter to managers.

Beyond asking for feedback, managers must create a company culture where such feedback is encouraged and valued. Here are some tips to get honest feedback from employees:

1. Empower your employees.

When employees feel invested in the success of the organization, they are more inclined to be proactive in improving it.

2. Establish clear communication.

Set the standard by offering transparency from the top down. Be clear about the mission, goals, and expectations. Many companies employ an anonymous comment box for feedback, thinking it will result in 100% honesty. However, this might send the message that you discourage open, honest, face-to-face communication.

3. Ask for feedback.

Let employees know that you are a human being who makes mistakes and wants to learn and grow, even if you are the boss.

4. Increase face time.

Meet with employees regularly to check in on their projects. Ask specific questions about what they are doing, how you can help, and what’s working for them. Questions like, "How can I help you be successful?" or "What kind of client feedback are you receiving?" result in actions that can help your business improve.

5. Pay attention to body language and facial expressions.

If you sense unease, frustration, or discontentment, follow up with employees to find out what's going on. It will show them that you are paying attention and care about their happiness, which will lead to more honest conversation.

6. Check your ego at the door.

If you offer a defensive, dismissive or angry response to employee feedback, it will likely be the last time you receive it. Instead, listen thoughtfully and resist the temptation to shut opinions down. Apologize if you need to, let people know that you hear them, and if necessary, ask for some time to digest the conversation before following up.

7. Designate a person or persons elsewhere in the organization to receive feedback.

Being honest with the boss is intimidating enough, but when the feedback is about the boss directly, it can get uncomfortable. Select a group of employees to hear reviews and concerns from across the company. Employees can feel more comfortable providing constructive and honest feedback instead of holding back out of fear of a manager’s reaction.

8. Do something about it.

If employee feedback falls on deaf ears, your staff will feel undervalued and less likely to share their honest opinions going forward. At the very least, follow up with them and let them know they have been heard and their comments are appreciated. At best, take action to deal directly with their comments.

At Pacific Office Automation, employee engagement is a pillar of our corporate mission. We want our entire team to grow and improve so we can offer our customers the best office service and solutions. We offer careers, not just jobs. For more information about our many career opportunities throughout the West, contact POA today.

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