10 Things Every First-Time Manager Should Know About Giving Feedback

Illustrated by Abbie Winters
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When you get promoted to being a manager, it’s often because you were a really good individual contributor. Unfortunately, the skills that made you a great individual contributor are not the same as the ones that will make you a great manager!
Feedback is one of those skills. As an individual contributor, it was not your responsibility to give feedback — and if you didn’t have a great boss, you might not have gotten much feedback. If you had a bad boss, they might even have actively discouraged you from offering your feedback to them. And if you didn’t work in a culture where feedback was encouraged, there may have been relatively little open communication between you and your peers.
But soliciting, giving, and encouraging feedback (both praise and criticism) are critical skills for any manager. Giving praise helps people know what to do more of, and criticism helps people know what to do better. So now that you’re a manager, it’s time to build your feedback muscle and help the people on your team build theirs, too. When you create a strong culture of feedback on your team, everyone will have a lot more success and a lot more fun working together.
If you’re like most people, you probably feel a lot of dread at the thought of having to give feedback. It’s hard, and it feels risky, but think about what happens when you don’t give it. I once had a team member I really liked; I’ll call him “Bob.” Bob was funny and likeable and had great experience. But his work wasn’t nearly good enough. In an effort to be “nice,” I gave him praise that was more of a head-fake. He would show me work that was absolutely horrible, and I would say, “This is such a great start, Bob. You are one of the smartest people I know, though, so I think you can make it even better!” He had no idea how bad I thought his work was, and wasn’t motivated to make it better. I didn’t give him any critical feedback. Ten months later, his work hadn’t improved, mostly because I hadn’t helped him see where the problems were or given him a chance to fix them. The people on my team who were doing great work were so unhappy working with Bob that they were threatening to quit! I ended up having to fire Bob. Not giving him feedback wasn’t so “nice” after all.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid situations like the one I had with Bob. Ahead, 10 things you should think about as you get started.
Kim Scott is the co-host of Radical Candor, a podcast from Panoply Media, and the author of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. She is also the cofounder of Candor, Inc., a former executive at Google and Apple, and CEO coach at Twitter, Dropbox, Qualtrics, and other tech companies. Elisse Lockhart is marketing director at Candor, Inc.