In the professional world, success requires effective communication skills. This is something we are told time and time again. However, there is new research demonstrating that not all leaders are ready to accept the responsibility of providing feedback to their team. According to a new study conducted by Interact and Harris Poll, the majority (69%) of managers surveyed (616) stated they were uncomfortable communicating with their employees. Of the same group of leaders, more than a third (37%) said they are uneasy giving employees feedback about performance if they think he or she will respond negatively. The pool of managers surveyed said that they were uncomfortable with: “becoming vulnerable, recognizing achievements, delivering the ‘company line,’ giving clear directions, crediting others with having good ideas, speaking face to face, and having difficult feedback conversations in general.” While feeling this discomfort is only human, it may be working against your employees.

This research is vital, because, as we know from experience, your team will thrive from feedback. Feedback is beneficial, from the top of the ladder down; this includes your top executives, emerging leaders, supervisors, and managers. Be it negative, or positive, feedback is crucial for development. There can be negative repercussions from tiptoeing around honest feedback. The environment has the potential to become dishonest and inefficient, because your team doesn’t know how to do a better job. There are ways to communicate feedback in constructive ways that will help your team members grow.

If you’re nervous about providing feedback to your team, consider the following when approaching an employee.


  • You can be direct, and kind.


Before you begin the conversation, think about your motives. It should not be your aim to make your employee feel ashamed or superior in any way. If you see potential for growth, be direct. Provide your team member with clear examples that demonstrate what you mean.


  • Listen to your employee.


Listening to the recipient of the feedback establishes a space in which both individuals feel respected. You should come into this conversation with an open mind, and see it as a learning experience. Listen to what your team member has to say, and incorporate it into the feedback you provide.


  • Don’t make it personal.


These conversations can be tricky, because it is easy to take things personally. Recognize that your team member may react or feel great, or maybe even unhappy. Acknowledge their emotions and provide an outlet for these emotions.


  • Be fully present.


You should actively participate in this conversation; do not try to rush through it. It’s not easy, but you should be courageous enough to provide moments of silence when necessary. Be sure to follow up later, so that there aren’t any uncomfortable afterthoughts lingering.


  • Inspire greatness.


If you are approaching a team member, it is because you want to encourage their development. Be sure to express your aspirations for them. Do not hold them accountable for these, because after all, they are yours. Hopefully, providing these aspirations will inspire him or her to develop their own. To learn more about giving feedback, see the Harvard Business Review.