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Delaying Feedback Is a Bad Idea

When you’re unsure of how to say what you need to say, it’s easy to put it off. Especially now, when it’s harder and harder to find and keep great team members, you don’t want to introduce obstacles to their happiness. I once had the same concerns until I started to learn more about the world of feedback and how it affects the people giving or receiving it.

I interviewed bosses and individual contributors from different industries and levels, including corporations and nonprofits. Across the board, I found that the more you delay feedback doesn’t make people happier. In fact, by delaying feedback, you stir up negative emotions in the brain, both for you and the other person.

How the brain processes delays in getting feedback

When somebody starts to give you less-than-flattering feedback and recalls an incident from the past—“Two months ago you did X at that Y gathering”—you get nervous. You immediately want to know why this person didn’t share their perceptions earlier. You think, What else are they withholding? Suddenly, your brain emits chemicals that makes you not trust the person giving you feedback because you can’t predict what they’re thinking or what they will do next. They bring unpredictability into your life.

Your brain when you avoid giving feedback to others

If you are the feedback giver, you are usually more nervous than you would have been when said incident(s) occurred. Your brain is also reacting emotionally. How will this person take this? They’re probably wondering why I didn’t tell them earlier. I can’t predict how badly they might react.

So your hesitation actually increases the weight of the ball and chain you are dragging.

Maybe there was a good reason for not giving feedback when you made the original observation. You may not have been sure it was important to the goal you had in mind.

That’s okay, but only in certain situations.

But when an incident occurs, and you know you have to give immediate feedback:

1. Stick to the recent event. “I noticed you were quiet in Tony’s meeting yesterday.”

2. Describe the event in a calm and helpful way. “Jerry and Terry appeared confused about our direction.”

3. Explain what was a problem for you. “They are delayed on their parts of the project, and I am concerned some others might get delayed as well.”

4. Make a request for what you’d like done in the future. “I’d like to ask you to spend time explaining our direction at the next meeting and getting their questions out in the open.”

Chances are that you will feel better after the interaction, and you will see fast improvement. And you will be building happiness and a feeling of security in yourself and your team members!

Read Best Seller The Feedback Imperative for more tips and strategies for leading remotely.

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