Managers receive little feedback on their performance, Gallup poll finds

Dive Brief:

  • While managers have a significant impact on the employee experience, they receive little feedback on their own performance, according to a Gallup survey. Fewer than half of employees say they’ve been able to provide feedback on their manager and fewer than 1 in 4 have formally rated their manager’s performance. And about one-third of managers say they’ve gotten feedback from peers.
  • Managers and employees generally agreed that managers were strong in the “baseline expectations” of their role. They also agreed managers’ weaknesses were in the realm of coaching. Compared to workers, however, managers tended to be overconfident about their delivery of recognition and frequent feedback, and tended to underrate their ability to create accountability for employee performance. 
  • “This study serves as a call to action: Managers need the development, feedback and support required to manage people effectively and foster highly productive teams,” Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy, workplace management at Gallup, wrote in an analysis.

Dive Insight:

For its analysis, Gallup organized responses by perspective: where employees and managers agreed on strengths and weaknesses and where they disagreed. The global analytics and advisory firm surveyed more than 15,000 adults, including over 2,500 managers.

Employees and managers agreed on many of the strengths and weaknesses, Gallup found. Among the strengths, both said managers excelled at responding quickly to calls and messages, providing “very helpful” feedback, being approachable with “any type of question,” and emphasizing how the work being done impacted customers. Generally, Wigert wrote, “these behaviors have the lowest correlations to employee engagement observed in the study, indicating they are less likely to elevate performance than other key behaviors.”

Meanwhile, the known weaknesses — providing meaningful feedback, motivating outstanding performance, removing performance barriers and discussing strengths — are “very highly correlated with employee engagement,” Wigert wrote. 

Gallup found that the lowest-rated behavior — providing “meaningful feedback in the last week” — combines quality and frequency to create what the firm calls the “coaching habit,” which is “among the best predictors of employee engagement Gallup has ever studied.”

In fact, Gallup said, managers demonstrated weakness in all five of what it has determined to be the “most important manager behaviors that drive employee engagement.” To fix this, it recommended routine coaching conversations that allow for discussion of goals, areas for development, strengths and recognition. 

Gallup previously laid out the content of “meaningful conversations,” with components that include — in order of importance — recognizing recent work, fostering connections between co-workers, clarifying current goals and priorities, engaging in an appropriately long conversation and focusing on employee strengths. 

Gallup’s findings aren’t entirely new for the HR pro; researchers have repeatedly found that while workers can benefit tremendously from coaching, managers rarely have the support or resources to step into this role. Even when such resources are available, organizations have more success when they hold managers accountable to that training, an Association for Talent Development analysis from September 2020 found.