How and When to Give Feedback
People need to know what they are doing well and where they may need to change in order to become successful. Letting people know in which areas they are lagging and where improvement is needed requires a combination of directness, compassion, and an understanding of the consequences of giving feedback poorly.
Whether your feedback is positive or negative, here are some great tips to make sure your message is clear and, most importantly, appreciated.
Provide instant and timely feedback
Don’t wait for year-end appraisals to give feedback. Giving instant and timely feedback helps an individual to change slowly or at least take that first big step before a problem grows to an unmanageable level.
“I am not happy with your work” is not a way to give feedback. “This recent hotfix you released to production caused many problems to our customer. Exercise caution while testing customer escalations. Put in an additional check here.” That's an example of specific feedback where the individual can listen, relate, acknowledge, and make changes.
Have a listening ear
Lend a listening ear to the feedback recipient. Sometimes, hearing the person out is all you need to do to help him change. Present your rationale. Expose your thought process. Highlight the context. Paraphrase what you hear. Chris Voss, who teaches business negotiation in the MBA program at Georgetown University, says listening is the best influencing technique.
Express self control
Don’t react, respond. If you disagree, don’t make a face or lose control of your emotions. Instead, communicate your views in a calm and composed manner.
Decide on specific actions and results
Decide together on the next course of action and clearly identify the result that you expect from the feedback recipient. Make a mutual decision and follow up from time to time after the feedback session.
Don't play the blame game
Avoid passing the buck to others or blaming the person involved. Don’t attack the person, attack the situation.
Don't use employees as a punching bag
Don’t give feedback too often. Allow the feedback recipient to recover from one feedback session and work on a few areas before you make a jump on giving your next round of feedback.
It's a choice and a chance, not a choice vs. a chance
Managing consultant Johanna Rothman says in her book Behind Closed Doors, “Accepting feedback is a choice and a chance for an individual to change.” If the person doesn’t take the critiques seriously, it will cost him something in the long run—and it will cost the organization as well.
Anuj Magazine gives a great example about how embracing feedback helps avoid the vacuum. It’s important to let individuals know that feedback is something they need to work on regardless of their positions in the organization. It is critical that leadership teams take any feedback from employees seriously and work on the concerns with genuine intentions.
Preparation and practice are critical to giving feedback in a judicious and unbiased way. After all, it is easier and healthier for all parties involved to give feedback early rather than to let problems simmer.