Giving Feedback to New Teammates

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When should I give feedback to new teammates? This is a question I often hear from both new people managers and more seasoned people managers who are welcoming new colleagues.

The underlying intention of the question is always good; the manager wants to ensure they are creating a welcoming and psychologically safe onboarding experience for their new teammate.

Diving deeper, I always learn that by “feedback” the manager means negative feedback. In essence, they tend to think negative feedback will be their first meaningful feedback experience with their new colleague — and they want to make sure they aren’t giving it too early in the relationship.

Exposing this insight is one reason why understanding what feedback is becomes so essential. Once we are on the same page, it becomes clear to the manager that the best time to give feedback is when they’ve noticed a behavior in their new colleague that is worthy of calling attention to.

At this point, their perception of the feedback relationship has dramatically expanded from seeing it as a single door to now seeing the many feedback types as many doors in a long hallway.

A black woman walks down a long hallway filled with colorful doors

In my experience and as validated through many conversations, providing positive feedback is typically the first opportunity to provide feedback and achieve the manager’s intention of creating an empowered and effective team.

Why? Often because the new teammate will be trying hard to make a good impression or will have exhibited some positive behavior or strong skill that is worth highlighting for them. Remember, as we addressed in the 5 Feedback Myths, specific positive feedback can tremendously impact employee morale and highlight strengths the employee needs to be made aware of.

While the first behavior you notice in your new teammate may be worth you providing negative feedback — let’s say they no-showed you for three straight meetings and you’ve heard they no-showed others as well — in all likelihood, your first opportunity to provide meaningful feedback will be of the positive variety. As we covered in the constructive feedback course, vague comments like “Great work” should be backed up with specific details like this:

From the What is Feedback section - a feedback giver can shift from saying something like "Great work" to more specific constructive feedback such as "On our last project, you showed an exceptional mix of team leadership and attention to detail. You kept each team feeling empowered and moving forward while also ensuring we carefully thought through the nuances of every customer touchpoint. Great work."

Lastly, the general rule to give feedback as close to the observed behavior as reasonable still applies. If you had enough care and self-awareness to wonder about the best time to give your new colleague feedback, you have the skills necessary to recognize which of their behaviors to highlight and when.


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