16 Mar 2018
Effectiveness and Ethics of giving feedback
Esha Parnami
#General | 5 min read
Effectiveness and Ethics of giving feedback
Esha Parnami

Ethics in the corporate world is a very vast topic and will take many days to cover. Today I want to draw your attention to only a small part of it i.e. Ethics of giving feedback. It may be a small part of the corporate world but believe me, its impact is huge when given the right way.



Performance Evaluation across the industry is a Subjective matter, this means reviews are open to ethical complications. Even though there is a lot of subjectivity, a few things we can make common across the platform like write out the appraisal feedback in a professional and educational manner, avoiding emotionally charged or unspecific words.



Unprofessional Language

Whether you are giving a positive or a negative feedback, leave the unprofessional language. Focus on using professional language for your evaluation. For example, instead of just saying “good job,” you might want to say, “the developer demonstrated an expert understanding of their duties xxx.” If you are writing a negative review, don’t say things like, “He/she doesn’t know how to do his job.” Instead, write that he “did not show satisfactory competence in writing test cases.”



General Terms

Being too general, such as saying his/her conduct was “good” or his/her performance was “poor,” will neither help you convey the right message to the CA nor your team member will learn from their performance reviews. Instead, be as specific as possible, for example, you might write that he/she demonstrated “poor response time for production tickets which caused loss of business to customer.” Few more things can come under General Terms



The Meets Tendency Effect

Do not give everybody Meets in each and every category. To avoid such tendencies

  • Spend enough time in reflection, it is necessary in order to assess any performance.
    The benefit of the doubt is good for your team member but if you follow this you may end up pushing someone down who deserves it.

The Compassionate Effect

Do not give the highest grade to every single person.

  • This is not a way to show your gratitude to your developer.
  • Do not do it to be perceived as a “nice” manager.

In general developers/employee’s try to perform well and they would appreciate knowing which aspects they could improve upon. Touching base with them on these elements (based on facts and not mere perceptions) could be the push they need in order to reach excellence.



Subjective Terms

Avoid using subjective terms that he/she could read as a personal attack on them. For example, words like “rude,” “polite” and “enthusiastic” have many different definitions. Instead, explain what was rude, polite or enthusiastic and why that action was either positive or negative.


For example, you might write, “Uma makes time(even on weekends) to work on production tickets.” This helps showcase her understanding of the business first concept.” If the manager were just to say Uma is “dedicated” however, that would be subjective, and another developer could argue that you simply like Uma’s personality better and are rewarding her unfairly. Few more points to consider while trying to give a subjective assessment.



The Recent Effect

Do not be captivated just by the recent events rest of the evaluation period matters too. For example, A developer recently made some changes in the production database which gave and client a sleepless night. Don’t forget in the past which he/she has done achieved complex tasks/customer success as well. To avoid falling into this trap, the manager could jot down all the pertinent information as it occurs. Reviewing these notes at the time of the evaluation helps paint a more realistic and precise picture of the employee.



The Personality Effect

It is completely natural to have a stronger connection with people who share our values, our interests or who have similar personality dimensions. Do not give comments because he/she is like you or you like their personality (be subjective, not objective).




Avoid using words like “always” and “never” in while filling appraisals. Employees rarely “always” or “never” do something, whether it is positive or negative. Using extremes can leave you open to developers who want to argue and prove that they did what you accused them of “never” doing. However, the problem really was that they do not do it nearly enough. Instead, use phrases like “has a pattern of” or “seldom.”



The Awe Effect

A certain employee always exceeds their objectives and wins all the customer praises. During the evaluation, the manager’s judgment could become clouded by this aspect and lead them to rank the employee as excellent in their entire performance. In this awe, you may miss out on smaller things which need improvements.



The Stern Effect

At the opposite side of the spectrum from the Aww effect lies the stern effect, which causes some evaluators to give some or many of their team members below rating.



Some focus more on the negative aspect and some are more critical than an average person. Take your own perception into account.


A biased (remember from first paragraph ’emotionally charged, unspecified words’) feedback can cause team members disinterested or give rise to frustration in the individuals who are being scrutinized.


In order for an evaluation to prove beneficial, it is essential that your team members feel that they are being evaluated fairly and that the evaluation is based on criteria that are just, observable and quantifiable, and not on the manager’s opinion and perception of them.


An impartial evaluation that is based on facts is an acknowledgment of his/her qualities and will encourage them to better themselves.

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