Mastering Performance Management: 10 Tips to giving feedback in hospitality

Polly Robinson

Polly Robinson Coach

Premium Supplier 14th September 2023
Polly Robinson

Polly Robinson Coach

Premium Supplier

Mastering Performance Management: 10 Tips to giving feedback in hospitality

One of the most challenging things about becoming a manager is building the confidence to give effective feedback to your team. Delivering positive or negative feedback can feel daunting, you might not want to come across as soft and gushing, worry about being critical and being disliked, or just giving feedback that is unhelpful and demotivating. 

In hospitality, people are our greatest asset and so, of course, their performance and attitude are central to the customer experience and business success. Giving regular feedback creates a virtuous circle of development and improvment.

So giving feedback is crucial to keeping your team on track, boosting quality and performance, to avoiding or repeating mistakes, and giving people the opportunity to grow and develop. When delivered well it can be inspiring and motivating. Creating a culture at work where feedback is a regular habit will strengthen relationships and boost retention. A feedback culture helps employees feel valued and heard, promotes accountability and encourages people to take an active role in their own development. 

Feedback can be formal and planned as part of a one-to-one conversation or regular performance review or it can be informal and ad hoc, but remember that the quality of the feedback is more important than the frequency. 
There’s a huge difference in impact between giving feedback badly or well. Badly delivered feedback can sound judgemental, vague or intangible, and saved up until it becomes irrelevant, an irritation or a resentment.  

Phrases like “Why didn’t you do that?”, “Why did that happen?”, “You never do this”, “You should do that” or worst of all “If I were you…” (Nobody likes a know-all!) This will create a defensive response and people will tune out and switch off. 


The sweet spot is to deliver feedback (and I’m talking about both positive and negative feedback here) that is specific, unbiased and descriptive. A useful way to remember this is with the acronym: AID - which stands for:


Start by objectively describing the action, what did or didn’t happen, explain the impact of that and then explore together how to move forward, make sure it doesn’t happen again or make it even better next time. Rather than making assumptions use phrases like “I noticed” or “I believe”. e.g.

 “When the handover to the next team shift wasn’t done, I noticed the impact was that this task got forgotten.” 

There’s a popular concept called “feed forward” which focuses not on what has happened in the past, you can’t change the past and focus instead on the future. It’s more effective to help people learn to be right than to prove that they were wrong and that people will respond much more positively, listening better and coming up with their own ideas for improvement. You can use examples and give suggestions and encouragement for improvement. 

Next, make a feedback discussion a conversation - a dialogue, not a monologue. Ask people what they felt or observed was the impact, use questions to raise their awareness and ask them how they think they could do better next time. This will show your commitment to helping the person improve, grow and develop. 

Make feedback immediate, don’t save it up until it becomes an issue or resentment. Suppose you have a process of performance appraisals or reviews. In that case, it can be tempting to hold back until the next one, but giving feedback should be part of your everyday management of your staff - a continuous loop: agree on next steps and objectives, monitor and support, review and reward. 

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Praise in public and criticise in private’. Public praise in front of peers and colleagues adds more weight to the praise, reinforces positive performance and encourages others to emulate. But if you have more critical feedback to give, it’s kinder to find a private place to talk and you are less likely to provoke a defensive response. 
Be aware of your words and your thoughts. Remember that communication happens on different levels - what you mean to say, what you actually say, what the receiver hears and how they interpret it. When giving feedback try to be a fair witness, an observer - so even if you think someone is stupid or lazy, you need to describe their behaviour and its actions on the rest of the team or your customers. Leave your personal opinions and judgment at the door. 
And what if you have a more serious issue to deal with and are dreading a difficult conversation? 
This is the time to not respond in haste or anger, take some to calm down, reflect and prepare for the conversation and be clear what you want to get out of it. Ask the person for a meeting and give them some time to prepare too. It may be helpful to ask someone else to sit in the meeting - e.g. someone from HR or operations. Make it clear that you are trying to find a way to move forward and find solutions together. Make sure that the meeting is noted for future reference and share it with them afterwards.  

During the conversation try to regulate your emotions, getting angry will not help, describe the issue and its impact, be factual and specific. Avoid playing ‘You Tennis’ where you make the feedback very personal “You did that…”, “you are always late” and turn it into personal observations such as “I noticed that this happened and it had this impact” or “I’m aware that when you arrive late it means we’re behind all day.” 

Then open up the conversation giving the recipient time to tell it from their perspective, listen and pause, before clarifying and summarising. Use phrases like “How do you feel about this?” Or “Is this a fair representation of what happened?” 

Then move into problem-solving together, asking questions to mutually agree next steps and finally suggest a follow-up meeting. You can be clear about your exceptions and what improvement looks like. 
In serious cases, it’s essential to make clear the consequences of continued performance or behaviour issues. This doesn’t mean threatening that they will lose their job, but could include a formal warning or losing a bonus.

The practice of regular formal performance reviews once or twice a year is evolving. Any manager who has had to deliver these for a team will know how time-consuming they can be and the temptation to save up difficult subjects until they are long overdue discussions. Employees can dread these formal meetings and find them demotivating. As a result, many businesses are moving away from them towards less formal, more regular performance conversations. 
If your company still has a process of formal appraisals, the same principles as giving informal feedback. It should be a dialogue, not a monologue. The discussion must be fair, specific, consistent and forward-looking apply. Use specific examples to illustrate both the positive and negative such as customer feedback or information from colleagues.  

A vital part of any appraisal conversation is to start by asking the employee how they think they are getting on and explore their aspirations what skills (hard or soft) they want to develop and what are their future aspirations. 
Together you should agree on future goals and targets that are aligned with the company’s values and overall objectives, this way staff feel they have a role to play in the vision and ambition of the business. These objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Record them on paper or digitally then you can review progress regularly. 

If you can create an environment where feedback is regular and a two-way conversation, you will create a culture where people feel motivated, supported and inspired to keep learning and growing. 

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