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Do Unto Others…When You Give Feedback

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Think about a time when a boss or co-worker’s feedback was confusing or stressed you out.

-Did their words seem to come out of the blue? -Was their message unclear? -Was there something more they weren’t saying? -Did you leave without understanding what to do next?

You want to avoid these effects when you give feedback to anyone else.

Prevent “out of the blue” feedback

Before jumping in with critical feedback the other person doesn’t expect, make sure the two of you already have a clear goal in mind when you are working together. If you don’t, talk to them to clarify your goals and give it a little time before offering corrective feedback. Many of the causes of poor performance are due tovague goals or priorities.

Make you message clear with context and examples

First of all, explain when and for what project your feedback applies, e.g. “For the last two weekly newsletters, we didn’t receive your draft until the day before it was due….”). Always include specific examples of their behavior, but stick to the facts, preferably without a blaming tone, as in “You did this and you did that.”

Be honest about what is really going on

Research has shown that most receivers of feedback don’t even perceive that the feedback giver was suggesting an improvement, even when these feedback givers insist they are giving clear, direct feedback. Feedback avoidance and nervousness are so prevalent that feedback givers don’t usually get to the point. You can deepen their receptivity for the need to change, by sharing the impact of their behavior. For example “When that customer got angry because he felt you weren’t listening, he called me to cancel his account.” Or for positive feedback you want them to understand:“When you took the time to answer each of her questions, she called in to order more products. Keep up your helpful approach!”

Make sure to agree on next steps

Feedback sometimes triggers an emotional response that may make details hard to remember. So initiate a discussion of specific next steps that will improve the situation, and have the person summarize it in their own words. For example, “So what improvement would you like to commit to for us to succeed here?”

Most of all, get clear yourself on what you are saying and what you are asking for. Don’t hold back on clear, helpful conversations that lead  to win-win success on your shared goals.

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