Do you dread giving or receiving feedback?
Giving feedback can be synonymous with performance appraisals, reviews and other disciplinary matters. It is often accompanied by feelings of dread.
But what if you could make feedback a positive process, perhaps a gift you give, to help someone learn and grow? Delivering feedback effectively can lead to increased performance, trust and loyalty in the workplace.
When Negative Feedback Feels Personal
Recently, I spoke to a young graduate who had been given feedback by their employer. It was difficult for them to hear at the time because it felt very personal. (This is a common reaction that can lead to self-doubt and negative emotions).
However, something the employer said stayed in the graduate’s thoughts. The employer said, “she would rather give feedback than take over a task, because she trusted that the employee was capable of delivering to a high standard”. Rather than questioning the employee’s ability, they were actually being given a vote of confidence. On reflection, the employee was able to acknowledge that in giving feedback, the employer showed they were willing to risk discomfort to help them improve.
Sharing something uncomfortable in a kind way allows growth for the other person.
If you’re giving feedback it’s important to get into the right mindset and be clear on your intentions. You need to understand why you are giving feedback and what you are hoping to achieve. It can be helpful to prepare some comments in advance. Remember, the purpose of feedback is to be constructive and to focus on improvement. You can access a useful guide to Giving Engaged Feedback by Brené Brown.
How Can You Make Feedback a Positive Process?
The more often you give feedback the easier it gets for you and the less anxiety provoking it is for the recipient. Feedback is a fundamental skill required for leadership that is built by practice. It is better to give feedback frequently in small doses than to build up a year’s worth to deliver in a performance appraisal. It takes less time and effort to be specific about a single event or concern than a multitude of issues that are difficult to break down.
Consider When to Give Feedback
Ideally, feedback should be delivered as close to an event as possible. Exceptions include situations where recipients are in a highly emotional state, as they will be less receptive to feedback and more likely to be defensive. Where you give feedback is also an important consideration. It should be given somewhere private to ensure you won’t be interrupted or overheard. The purpose of feedback is not to belittle, criticize, shame or offend, publicly or otherwise.
Be Specific With Your Feedback
Be as specific as possible with details when giving feedback. You should discuss issues from your perspective by using “I” statements. For example, “I noticed Mrs Jones was waiting unattended at the front desk yesterday for a long time”, rather than, “You didn’t get up and help Mrs Jones when she arrived”. The latter feels more like a personal attack and judgement rather than feedback from your perspective.
Include Positive Feedback
Starting your discussion with something positive puts the other person at ease. It also demonstrates an ability to see the “good and bad” which suggests balance and fairness. Reminding the other person you are committed to their growth and development makes them feel supported. You should try to end your session with a positive next step you can take to make progress.
Remember, Feedback is a Gift
Having a feedback discussion provides an opportunity to work collaboratively on suggestions and solutions for improvement. Through the process you may receive feedback yourself. Ideally, feedback is a two-way process where you work together.
Delivered well, feedback is a gift you give to another person to help them to learn, grow and develop.