Micromanaging may have fallen completely out of fashion, because many employees hardly see their bosses now that a time-consuming recession has hit. According to a recent Leadership IQ study, 66 percent of employees report that they have little to no interaction with their bosses, up 13 percent from last year's report.
Although 67 percent of workers reported that they get too little positive feedback, they're not just after words of recognition. Another 51 percent of employees said that they get too little constructive criticism from their bosses.
"Perhaps the most surprising finding was the extent to which employees are desperate for feedback," says Mark Murphy, CEO and chairman of Leadership IQ. "A smart employee knows that as his performance improves, so, too, does his future. Thus, he wants highly interactive leaders who will coach, develop, and improve him."
But employees are not only experiencing a lack of feedback, the quality of that feedback is also poor. Fifty-three percent of employees reported that when their bosses do praise them, the information to help them repeat their performance is insufficient. In addition, 65 percent of workers say that when they are criticized by their bosses, they don't get enough information to correct the problem.
Murphy admits that the recession has exacerbated the problem of a lack of meaningful engagement between supervisor and worker. "In the past few years, companies have spent too much time and money trying to make their employees happy, and not nearly enough energy trying to make their employees great."
He notes that once the economy turned sour, all of the bonuses and extras disappeared, and managers started avoiding employees, following the age-old adage, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." Many employers were not prepared to answer many of the tough questions coming in from their staff, even though the time to be communicative became imperative within the stress and anxiety-ridden workplace atmosphere.
Murphy also adds that managers generally aren't taught how to give actionable feedback. "If an employee does a brilliant job writing a report, and her manager says, 'Great job,' how is that employee supposed to know what specific things she should do again?"
Seeing as how only 21 percent of employees reported that they know their job performance is where it should be, Murphy recommends several strategies to help managers boost their feedback skills. He notes that managers should roughly double the time they spend interacting with their employees and make all feedback, whether positive or negative, "highly specific and behaviorally explicit."
To make feedback powerful, he says, "Managers need to give feedback often (before it balloons into a bigger issue), make it crystal clear exactly what needs to be fixed and how, and then avoid sugarcoating the feedback. Too many leaders make the mistake of trying to squeeze a negative performance critique in between layers of positive reinforcement. It's a mixed message that gets zero results."
The survey sample consisted of 3,611 workers from 291 business and healthcare organizations, the majority of which were in the United States and Canada.