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Constructive feedback rather than empty hyperbole is far more valuable to your team members, explains Julie Kortens.


04 September 2018 | Julie Kortens

I have spent a lot of time working with young FM professionals and I’ve noticed how business language has changed since I started out in the industry. 

So many words have different meanings and face-to-face conversations are reducing by the day, making it more important for team leaders and line managers to think carefully about how they provide feedback to their employees. 

Changing meaning

If we look at language, we learn that thousands of years ago the word ‘probably’ meant ‘definitely’. As centuries went by, people had less faith in using ‘probably’ until it eventually took up its current meaning.

Then, there’s the word ‘naughty’, which started life as a serious insult meaning that somebody was literally nothing or naught to me; ‘fantastic’ referred only to things that happened in fantasies, not real life; and ‘terrible’, of course, originally meant something that inspired or created terror.

We have seen ‘wicked’ change its meaning from bad to good and you could argue that Facebook is well on the way to weakening the meaning of ‘friend’ to something more along the lines of ‘online acquaintance’. This process goes on and on, but what has this got to do with FM?

Robbing words of power

‘Amazing’, ‘fabulous’ and ‘star’ and similar words are losing the power that they once had.

If you routinely tell your colleagues and subordinates they are amazing, what are you meant to say when they do something truly exceptional? We’ve all come across examples in the workplace, in our personal lives or while networking, and particularly on social media. 

Empty tweets

Look at Twitter and you’ll see people handing out compliments, telling you that you are amazing or special, only to move on and say exactly the same thing to the next person who tweets.

For some people, compliments are churned out on a production line, and it’s a case of one size fits all; compliments that they will hand out to anyone and everyone who crosses their path.

This should be of particular concern to facilities managers and leaders. If they are simply telling everyone who wanders through their office how great they are without any evidence to back up their claims, then their words are empty. Why would their teams trust what they say? How can their staff feel confident about their performance and their future?

And what about relationships with service providers or clients? How will they really know that you are happy with the partnership? If we are always being told how great we are then how will they ever really know about the genuine issues that need ironing out?

How to give your employees constructive feedback

  • Explain what in particular you like so much about their work or attitude;
  • Take the time to genuinely talk to your employees and carefully listen to what they have to say;
  • Give honest feedback only; and
  • Make constructive criticism part of a compliment. 

Give praise sparingly

If we want feedback to mean something, then we need to put thought into it. Remember, it isn’t rude to save your praise for those times when someone has truly impressed you, and when you do praise someone, make sure that the praise is genuine and evidence focused.

Your team is paid to do a job and continual compliments are simply not the same as constructive feedback and will not help personnel to develop.

A colleague recently mentioned to me that taking the time to have a genuine conversation with someone is one of the greatest compliments we can pay another person. I agree.

Glib comments and disposable compliments shouldn’t be mistaken for genuine interaction. Remember that giving someone the impression you think they’re perfect is not going to do them any favours either.

Nobody is perfect and most of us value people who really understand us and are honest with us.

Julie Kortens is managing director of Konnected People.