my team complains I don’t give them feedback fast enough — Ask a Manager

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A reader writes:

I’m at the management level in a medium-sized company. For the most part, things have been going smoothly. I do a lot of one-on-one coaching, and it usually goes without incident. I have a private, casual chat once something minor has happened two or three times — enough for me to know it’s not a one-off, but not so frequently it’s habit yet.

However, more and more, when I try to give feedback, a couple specific people reply with, “You never told me! Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”

This is me telling them! Literally the entire point of the conversation is to tell them the feedback and help them resolve whatever the challenge is. If I corrected every minor mistake the very first time it happened, morale would plummet and they would hate their jobs. Nobody wants that!

There’s no reason for people to fear my feedback. We don’t “discipline” people who mess up, and I typically don’t even care the mistake happened beyond my responsibility for quality control. I’ve tried different formats for the feedback, like email, instant messenger, and in person, but it hasn’t changed the response.

I don’t know where these defensive replies are coming from or why they are trying to turn the conversation around on me. It’s emotionally exhausting though, and I don’t want my team members freaking out every time I tell them something minor they need to improve upon. I need to be able to give feedback without the drama. Please help!

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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