The art of giving feedback is a pivotal but often tedious skill that everyone should cultivate. It isn’t just for leaders or managers; it is also for people who want to elevate and take charge of their work environment. Mastering this skill will lead to more positive, open relationships with your colleagues.
It is handy to be mindful that people generally respond more strongly to negative events than positive ones. Professor Andrew Miner and his team at the University of Minnesota conducted a study that showed employees reacting six times more strongly to a negative interaction with their boss than a positive one. This study highlights just how sensitive people are to criticisms and how important it is to give tactful feedback.
Prior to giving feedback, it is necessary to have good rapport with your employees and colleagues as this opens their minds to what you have to say. Starting a dialogue with someone who harbours negative feelings towards you may lead to a more passive-aggressive or defensive exchange.
Another important thing to evaluate before approaching someone is the opportunity costs of giving said feedback. Is the error inconsequential?
Is it worth straining your relationship in favour of correcting this particular mistake? Was the mistake just run-of-the-mill human error? If feedback is needed, be mindful that the purpose of feedback is to improve their performance as a member of your organisation.
1. Encourage the individual to self-evaluate
Ask the receiver how they feel they have progressed in the issue and get their insight.
2. Reinforce positive attributes
Particularly before and after the feedback, reinforce the good work and qualities the receiver possesses.
3. Place focus on the behaviour, not the person
Try swapping statements like, “Your writing skills are underwhelming” with statements like “I think this draft needs more thorough editing and elaborating, here and here.”
4. Give evidence and provide a clear possible solution
Referring to the aforementioned example, you could enquire, “Have you referred to the following sources? They could reinforce some of the ideas you have shared.”
5. Use ‘I’ messages
Starting feedback with “you” can sound accusatory. Try “I” statements like, “I find this description vague” or “I think this needs to be expanded on.”
6. Give feedback ASAP
Try to address the matter immediately. Letting an issue go stale may make you seem like you are holding a grudge.
7. Deal with how the receiver responds, especially if the response seems defensive
Be open to the receiver’s response. They may immediately seem defensive, so try to stay objective and constructive while addressing this.
Feedback is a powerful means of personal development and should be a two-way street. A communal attitude of giving and receiving constructive feedback will make your work environment more resilient and productive than ever before.