How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Autistic Employees
Giving feedback to employees is a critical aspect of managing a team. It helps to identify areas of improvement, provide recognition for good work, and build relationships between managers and employees. However, when managing neurodivergent individuals, such as autistic employees, giving feedback can be challenging.
Autistic employees may have difficulty processing feedback or interpreting social cues, making it crucial to approach feedback in a way that is supportive and effective. In this blog, we will discuss some tips for giving feedback to autistic employees that managers can use to create a positive feedback experience that fosters growth and development.
Be Specific and Concrete
When giving feedback to an autistic employee, it is essential to be specific and concrete. Autistic individuals often struggle with abstract concepts and may have difficulty understanding vague feedback. Instead, provide clear examples and specific details about what needs improvement.
For instance, suppose a manager observes that an autistic employee is struggling to communicate effectively in team meetings. In that case, instead of saying, “You need to improve your communication skills,” the manager can provide concrete examples of situations where the employee’s communication was lacking. They could say, “In the meeting last week, when asked to provide an update, you were quiet and didn’t speak up. I think it would be helpful if you could be more assertive in meetings.”
Avoid Metaphors and Sarcasm
Autistic individuals often struggle with figurative language, sarcasm, and idioms. These forms of speech can be confusing and difficult to interpret. Therefore, it’s best to avoid using them when giving feedback to an autistic employee.
For example, instead of saying, “You need to step up your game,” you could say, “I think it would be helpful if you could be more proactive in seeking out new opportunities for the team.”
Use a Direct and Positive Tone
Some autistic employees may experience difficulties interpreting social cues, such as tone of voice or body language, when receiving feedback. Therefore, it’s crucial to use a direct and positive tone to help the employee feel supported and motivated to improve.
Avoid using negative language, such as “You’re doing a terrible job,” as this can be demotivating and damaging to the employee’s self-esteem. Instead, focus on providing constructive feedback that highlights the employee’s strengths and potential for improvement. For instance, you could say, “I think you have a lot of potential, and I believe you can improve in this area.”
Provide Clear Expectations
Autistic individuals often appreciate clear expectations and guidelines. Providing specific goals or targets to work towards when giving feedback can be highly beneficial.
Instead of making general statements, such as “You need to be more organised,” it’s best to provide actionable feedback that outlines precisely what the employee needs to do. For instance, you could say, “I think it would be helpful if you could create a to-do list at the beginning of each day and prioritise your tasks based on importance.” This approach gives the employee a clear understanding of what is expected of them and how they can achieve their goals effectively.
Use Visual Aids
It’s essential to be mindful of any communication challenges that autistic employees may face when receiving feedback. Autistic individuals may experience difficulty with auditory processing, making it challenging to absorb verbal feedback effectively. In this case, visual aids can be highly beneficial.
Consider supplementing your verbal feedback with diagrams, charts, or written instructions to enhance the employee’s understanding. For instance, instead of describing a complex process verbally, you could provide a flowchart or diagram that outlines the essential steps. This approach ensures that your autistic employees receive clear and concise feedback that is easy to comprehend and act on.
Set Regular Check Ins
As a manager, it’s crucial to establish a constructive and supportive feedback culture with your autistic employees. A great way to achieve this is by enquiring about their preferred timing for feedback delivery, whether weekly or monthly. Establishing a regular and predictable check-in schedule can alleviate stress and anxiety that might be associated with receiving feedback.
Moreover, providing feedback consistently in the same format is an excellent way to help autistic employees understand and prepare for the feedback. A useful feedback format to consider is highlighting what went well during a particular period, what areas can be improved, and finally, any questions the employee may have. By following these tips, you can create a positive feedback experience that fosters growth and development in your autistic employees.
Consider the Employees Communication Preferences
Autistic employees may have unique communication preferences that can impact how they receive feedback. Some employees may prefer written communication over verbal communication, while others may prefer a face-to-face conversation.
As a manager, it’s essential to enquire about the employee’s preferred mode of communication and adjust your feedback delivery style accordingly. This approach can help you avoid misunderstandings and ensure that your feedback is received effectively.
For example, if an employee prefers written communication, you could provide feedback via email or a shared document. Alternatively, if an employee prefers face-to-face communication, you could schedule a meeting to provide feedback in person.
Encouraging self-reflection is an effective way to help autistic employees process feedback and develop their skills. Self-reflection allows employees to assess their own performance and identify areas for improvement independently.
As a manager, you can encourage self-reflection by providing open-ended questions that encourage employees to think critically about their performance. For example, you could ask, “What do you think went well during this project, and what could have been improved?” This approach encourages the employee to reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement independently.
Provide Opportunities for Skill Development
Providing opportunities for skill development is an excellent way to help autistic employees improve their skills and confidence. This approach allows employees to focus on areas that need improvement and develop new skills that are relevant to their role.
As a manager, you can provide opportunities for skill development by offering training sessions or workshops that focus on specific skills. For example, you could offer a workshop on communication skills or time management. This approach allows employees to learn and develop new skills in a supportive and constructive environment.
Recognise Your Employee’s Strengths
Recognising the employee’s strengths is an essential part of providing effective feedback. By highlighting the employee’s strengths, you can help them feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. This approach can also motivate the employee to continue to develop their skills and improve their performance.
As a manager, it’s essential to recognise the employee’s strengths when providing feedback. For example, you could say, “Your attention to detail is exceptional, and it has been invaluable in ensuring that our projects are completed accurately and efficiently.” This approach helps the employee feel appreciated and motivated to continue to perform at a high level.