Feedback isn’t and shouldn’t be a one sided delivery but a conversation. A Harvard Business Review article entitled “Good Feedback is a Two-Way Conversation” by Joe Hirsch frames feedback in a way that most don’t, however there is a layer often left out and The NeuroDrive Team would love to add to the “How” of the Feedback Conversation to include minds of all kinds.
When it comes to Neuro-Inclusive employee feedback having a conversation that includes both sides of the table, variations in neurotype communication styles, along with these top tips from Neuro-Inclusive Experts in the Workplace who also happen to be Autistic, ADHD, and Dyslexic will drastically improve your feedback outcomes.
Do they get more feedback, or do they need more time between feedback?
It is important to work with each employee to understand when they need feedback to be most effective and successful in their job and duties.
For example, "Do better when working on group projects" is too vague, ask them how they feel about group projects, what parts of group projects they like to do, and where they could use a little more support, and then explain to them what specifically they need to improve on and ask where they also feel like they can improve, as it includes them and makes them feel like they are included in improving and not just being criticized.
For example, if you want to tell an employee that it seems like all they do is talk about gaps in processes without offering solutions, you might be assuming that they don’t have solutions.
Before giving the feedback you could wait for the next statement you feel fits in that category and lead with a question as your response. You could ask “do you have any suggestions to solve that issue?” and see what the response is - you might be surprised!
It might be that the reason they are not offering solutions is that when they have offered solutions in the past in your workplace, their thoughts have not been considered or have been ignored/dismissed and so this person is being taught by experience that their problem solving isn’t considered important. They might be attempting to participate by surfacing issues, but have learned that offering a solution will get them nowhere: they leave that spot open because workplace culture shows them that someone else is considered more capable for the solution.
Many neurodivergent people specialize in identifying gaps and developing creative solutions, and if they're in an environment that doesn't understand out-of-the-box thinking, their contributions can be unseen, dismissed or misunderstood.
Schedule meetings at the start of the day, scheduling a meeting for the end of the day, can present an opportunity to be anxious or worried about what's to come all day. Additionally, your office should feel like a calming space, is there candy in a candy bowl? Is there coffee/tea to drink?
Try to Avoid vague statements such as "It's been one of those years, and everyone worked hard, and sometimes people don't get along". What does that mean? Are you telling me it's a challenging year? or that "People don't get along with me?"
With vague statements, the person has no idea what behavior is expected to change. It's much kinder and more collaborative to be direct. Example, "It has been brought to my attention that some team members feel they can't approach you because your door is always closed and you are looking down so they assume you are distracted." "Can we make a plan to address this?" "I was thinking of having a one-hour a day open door policy, what are your thoughts and ideas?"
Allow processing time! When feedback is provided, allow a person to process and form an answer. Never assume that silence means anything else than a person is processing and everyone is deserving of that. In addition, to help with processing speeds, ask your employee if they would like you to take notes and if they would like to meet again after they have had time to process.
- Double the amount of time you think you'll need for the conversation
- Follow the "Seek first to understand then to be understood" approach
- Start with non-judgmental questions to understand the situation/context such as "What do you think about..." or "I'm interested to learn more about how you went about doing..."
- If you're trying to give performance feedback to change how they did something, provide the feedback as a cause-and-effect question with the desired performance while honoring how they do perform (e.g., "Given your experience, what do you think would result if you tried...?"
- Treat the feedback and desired performance as an experiment and ask them to share their experience: "Could you try doing it this way and let me know what you think?"
- Drop the whole feedback sandwich (positive comment, negative feedback, positive comment). That often feels condescending.
- Trust that your employee wants to do well and can!
- There is rarely a time when one and only one way works - be open to new approaches
Here's one more... DON'T start the conversation with, "I have some feedback for you."
Researchers at the MIT Sloan Management Review cite that the biggest contributor to employee resignation is a toxic work culture.
There are many factors which contribute to a healthy work culture and one where organizations have the most agency and control is over the employee feedback experience.
We’ve all heard the manager horror stories and most people have experienced a “bad” manager at least once. One thing that consistently comes up in these “bad manager” conversations is around the experience of feedback and performance reviews.
I believe in working smarter not harder when it comes to feedback conversations. There are two key elements to incorporate into successful and healthy feedback for all employees:
Everyone’s nervous system will respond in different ways and at different times throughout the process. Note that you, as the deliverer of the feedback, will also experience physical stress. It is okay to share this in a way that creates an understanding of humanness.
For example, “Sandy, I know feedback/performance reviews can be nerve wracking. I have been on the receiving end many times myself. Please know that everything we are talking about today is for everyone’s benefit and you and I are in a conversation together to do our best.”
The power of acknowledgement helps reduce the negative physical feelings that often can lead to those toxic experiences during a review and will also reduce the stress of the experience which can be a leading contributor to sustained stress leading to burnout.
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