9 Tips For Giving Feedback – The Right Way
We all want our direct reports and peers to be able to take feedback and constructive criticism well. But some of us may need to polish how we give feedback so that it is productive and doesn’t cause resentment.
workhuman.com provides some great suggestions for giving feedback – without the stress. These tips apply whether the feedback is being given from a supervisor or manager, or from a peer.
- Establish trust. Employees need to feel respected and have a sense of self-worth to be motivated and committed. When an employee feels valued and trusted, they are more willing to learn from the feedback rather than quickly reject it. It helps to have a positive relationship, in general, with your direct report or peer for your feedback to be received well.
- Come from a place of kindness. Give feedback from a place of caring about your colleague’s learning and growth. What are your motivations for giving feedback?
- Wrong reasons to give feedback – to defend your own behavior, to condemn, to appease another person, or to make yourself feel good or in control.
- Right reasons to give feedback – concern for the other person, sense of responsibility, to guide/mentor, or support.
- Leave anger at the door. Many times, we give feedback out of sheet frustration or anger. This almost never is successful and often resented. If you feel yourself having these negative emotions, step back and reflect before you give the feedback. Make sure the feedback is based on data and insight rather than negative emotions. Remember the ultimate purpose of feedback – to be someone’s advocate to help them learn and grow.
- Listen to their reaction. Listening is one of the most powerful ways to build trust and improve communication. You need to not only listen to what someone is saying, but also pay attention to their body language, tone, and emotions. You may need to make adjustments to your delivery based on the other person’s response to ensure a good two-way conversation instead of a lecture.
- Be specific. Clarify the actions and behaviors that you are providing feedback on and the impact. The more the individual can relate to the specific event, the more likely they are to learn from the feedback. It is best to give feedback as close to when the incident or example occurred as possible as opposed to your example being a distant memory.
- Focus on the behavior, not the person. Focusing feedback on just the situation rather than the individual separates the problem from the person, and the receiver is less likely to feel personally confronted.
- Inject your own story. Feedback becomes powerful when you can relate it back to your own learning and growth. When you communicate that you were once in a similar situation, you inject a sense of emotional connection into the conversation. It also starts to build a mentor-mentee relationship where feedback starts to become advice.
- Use “I” statements. Give feedback from your perspective, not on behalf of others. If you have not observed or noticed the behavior, it becomes difficult to explain what is and is not working. When you begin with, “I’ve heard that you…”, you have lost the opportunity for the feedback to be heard because the other person is thinking about who you heard that from.
- Limit your focus. A feedback session should focus on no more than two issues. Any more than that and you risk the person feeling attacked and demoralized. Focus on behaviors and actions that can be changed.
Most of us are familiar with how valuable it is to receive meaningful, well-intentioned feedback – the kind of feedback that really helps us grow or acknowledges the growth we’ve already achieved. When giving feedback, remember those times when you received fabulous feedback. Reflecting on your own experiences will help ensure your feedback comes from a place of kindness and positive intent.
“9 Tips for Giving Feedback (Without the Stress)”, by workhuman. SHRM HR Daily Newsletter, April 25, 2022.
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