How Am I Doing? Employees Want To Know!

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President of The Discovery Group


Our research shows that employees crave performance feedback but that their supervisors are doing a poor job of giving it to them. 60 percent of employees say that they don't receive ongoing feedback about their job performance throughout the year.

Here are some reasons why supervisors avoid providing feedback:


  1. Lack of Know-How:

    Providing employees with honest and useful performance feedback is not so easy. It requires insight, skill, and maturity that many supervisors lack.


  2. An Orientation Toward Evaluation Rather than Development:

    Supervisors incorrectly assume that their job is to judge rather than to help employees improve.


  3. Fear of Retribution:

    Supervisors worry that if they provide negative feedback, their employees will lose their motivation, argue with them, or try to retaliate against them in some way. They don't realize that employees actually welcome constructive feedback because they want to improve. Providing this feedback will strengthen rather than weaken relationships between supervisors and employees.


  4. False Belief: "It's Not My Job.":

    Many supervisors mistakenly think that their job is only to meet production and expense goals, not to develop employees. Nothing could be further from the truth.


  5. Relying Too Much on the Annual Review System:

    Many supervisors believe that the only time they really need to provide employees with feedback is during the annual performance review meeting. They are dead wrong. In order to be effective, performance feedback needs to be conducted throughout the year.



  1. Catch People in the Act:

    One of the most well documented principles of behavioral psychology is that feedback is most effective when it is given immediately following a behavior.


  2. Avoid Surprises:

    Annual performance reviews should contain no surprises. These meetings should be a summation of discussions that have taken place throughout the year.


  3. Focus on Behavior, Not Traits:

    Feedback should be a discussion of specifically-observed behavior rather than an evaluation of employee's personality. For example, it is much more effective to say, "you did a great job proofreading the report yesterday and catching those typos" than it is to say, "you have very good attention to detail."


  4. Think Development, Not Evaluation:

    Supervisors should view their role as an employee coach, developer, and teacher. They should not expect the human resource department to take on these responsibilities. Acting as a mentor is much more constructive than playing the role of judge or jury. It also is a much easier modus operandi.


  5. Skip the Money Part:

    Salary and bonuses, of course, are very important to employees, but they also want constructive feedback. Salary decisions are influenced by many factors outside the control of the supervisor or the employee. Therefore, discussions about money and performance should be held separately.


  6. Conduct Performance Discussions, Not Lectures:

    Employees should be involved in setting their own performance goals and articulating plans for their own professional development. Supervisors should talk about the behavior they have observed, but also ask employees for their views of areas where improvements can be made. By involving the employee in their own development, he or she will be more likely to make improvements.


  7. Commit to Making Ongoing Feedback an Important Part of Your Job:

    Ongoing performance feedback is critically important for employee development thus supervisors who are unwilling to make it a major part of their job should be stripped of their supervisory responsibilities.


Contact Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., "The Survey Doctor"
9 Blair Circle Sharon, MA 02067
Voice - 781-784-4367 Fax - 781-784-6450
E-mail -
Web -

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