How to Give Feedback That Actually Improves Performance

How to Give Feedback That Actually Improves Pharmacy Performance

Inside: Too often feedback causes more setbacks than improvements. These dos and don’ts of feedback will help make your pharmacy more productive. 

Most people go out of their way to avoid conflict or disagreements, and because of this, pharmacy managers often shrink at the thought of giving their employees negative feedback on their work performance.

But done right, giving out constructive criticism can vastly improve your employees’ performance and the overall atmosphere at your pharmacy. A survey conducted by Harvard Business Review found that a whopping 92 percent of people said that receiving feedback would help them with their work performance.

Incorporating feedback into your regular pharmacy routines means your team members will begin to see it as a tool for improvement rather than an insult.

How to Give Effective Feedback

Make these moves to integrate useful feedback into your pharmacy’s work culture.

Formalize feedback

There’s a time-tested management saying that goes, “Praise should be public, criticism should be private.”

This is why it’s so important to schedule routine one-on-one meetings with your employees. It will be a lot easier for both you and your team members if you don’t have to deliver individual critical feedback in front of the whole staff.

A regular check-in meeting will also normalize feedback. As a manager, it allows you to address small issues as they come up rather than waiting until it becomes a gigantic problem you can’t ignore. Plus, it will get your employees used to receiving feedback at a specific time so it doesn’t feel so personal or like it’s coming out of nowhere.

Don’t beat around the bush

It’s hard to tell someone they’re not doing well. As a manager, you want to ensure that everyone feels good about working in the pharmacy, and negative feedback could disrupt workplace harmony.

Because of this, many managers tend to sugarcoat their feedback and deliver bad news in a way that makes it seem like it’s not a big deal.

This does a disservice to your employees, though. By couching your feedback in vague language, you risk losing the point. Employees with a performance problem won’t feel a sense of urgency, so they won’t have an incentive to improve.

Make sure it’s feedback, not just criticism

“Feedback” and “criticism” might seem like a semantic difference, but one helps your employees while the other hurts.

Criticism is telling someone they did something wrong or expressing disapproval. People tend to take criticism personally and feel like they are the victim. Criticizing your employees might make them recognize a mistake, but it won’t set them up to improve their performance. Instead, it will create bad feelings in the workplace.

On the other hand, feedback is constructive. It’s results-focused and precise. Instead of focusing on personal defects, it pinpoints where a situation went awry and what can be changed the next time to improve the outcome.

If you witness an employee have a bad customer service interaction with a patient, a critical response would be to tell the employee, “You were rude.” A response containing constructive feedback might sound more like, “Next time you deal with a frustrated patient like that, take a deep breath before responding to help you stay calm.”

Feedback empowers employees to improve, while criticism encourages them to retreat.

Focus on one thing

If employees have multiple areas they need to improve, don’t barrage them with all the problems at one time. They might become disheartened and think there’s no use in trying to improve.

Instead, decide which issue is the most urgent. What does the employee need to improve upon that most affects the day-to-day business?

When they begin to show improvement, make sure to acknowledge that. Then, introduce the next issue for improvement.

Let the receiver react

When you dispense negative feedback, brace yourself for potential negative reactions. Another Harvard study found that people who receive bad news (like that their performance isn’t as stellar as they thought) tend to take it out on the person who delivered the news.

Don’t hold it against someone if they get upset and react with embarrassment, defensiveness, or frustration. That’s natural. Acknowledge that it may be difficult to hear, but don’t try to soften the point.

While an initial negative reaction can be expected, if an employee is a downright jerk about it, you must put your foot down and set boundaries. Remain calm, but don’t back down. Reiterate the point and offer to circle back once they’ve had time to think about it.

Check in to ensure understanding and progress

After you deliver a piece of critical feedback, you can’t expect that the employee will understand and improve without any support.

Make sure that the end result that you have in mind for them has been clearly stated, then make a plan together to reach that result.

In your check-in meetings, ask if there’s any other support you can give your struggling employee and praise them when they make progress.

Give positive feedback, too

If you only tell your employees when they are doing something wrong, even your top performers are likely to start feeling dispirited at work.

In your regular check-in sessions, make a point to tell employees what they are doing right, especially when you notice them going above and beyond. Receiving positive feedback can make employees more productive and less likely to leave, among other benefits.

However, you should avoid using the “sandwich method” for giving feedback—that means “sandwiching” a piece of negative feedback in between two pieces of positive feedback. This method can make employees forget about the positive feedback and confuses them about the negative feedback.

Be a Role Model

Since you’ve put in a formal system for giving out feedback, you should do the same for receiving it. In a workplace where offering feedback goes both ways, team members will be more receptive when they receive criticism on their end.

Most employees won’t eagerly jump up to offer criticism of their boss, even if they’re asked to. You can sidestep this by asking more specific questions. Something like, “Is there anything you’d like me to do differently when it comes to our workflow?” or “Do you have any ideas about how I can be more responsive when problems arise in the pharmacy?”

As a manager, you’ll be dispensing feedback way more often than you are receiving it. But when you do receive negative feedback, accept it gracefully.

This will make you a model for your employees, and make the medicine go down easier for them when they receive negative feedback.

When you receive negative feedback—from an employee or even from a patient—here’s how you can respond with dignity:

  • Don’t get defensive
  • Actually listen (don’t just nod your head)
  • Ask questions if the feedback is not clear
  • Thank the person for their thoughts



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PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

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