Giving Productive Feedback
While giving and receiving feedback can be a sensitive process, it is an essential tool when it comes to identifying issues and helping to solve them. It’s not always easy to give, but if it’s done thoughtfully, usefully and with the best of intentions, it will help improve the quality of that person’s work and may even boost their productivity. Here are our top tips to help you give productive feedback:
When giving feedback, it is important to put the person at ease. The feedback will ultimately be unproductive if they don’t feel comfortable. Always take a respectful and safe approach if you don’t have the kind of relationship that allows you to say virtually anything you like to each other.
Your feedback won’t be productive if it’s focused on making the other person look foolish in front of their peers, so don’t be mean-spirited. Instead, create opportunities to build confidence and skills. This is especially effective when people are in an appraisal situation. Confined situations in which people know they are being evaluated are good for giving feedback while learning skills.
Give as much positive feedback as you do negative. Positive feedback stimulates the reward centres in the brain, leaving the recipient open to taking a new direction. Whereas, negative feedback can indicate inaccuracies, therefore igniting the threat response, causing the defence mechanism to kick in. You don’t need to avoid negative or corrective feedback altogether, just make sure you follow it up with a positive solution or outcome.
People generally respond better to specific direction, so avoid being vague when offering feedback. For example, “You need to be more talkative in meetings” is too ambiguous and could be interpreted negatively. Instead, say something positive that points at the specific task you want to be accomplished, such as, “I would like to hear at least one opinion from you in all future meetings.”
Productive feedback is best delivered as and when it is needed, as the adult brain learns best when being caught in action. Waiting two months to tell someone that their performance is average is far from ideal, as it’s too late, too vague and it will be very difficult for them to grasp any changes they need to make.
There are always two sides to a story, so after giving feedback, give the person a chance to respond. This will turn your feedback into a conversation rather than a one-sided review and enables you to confirm they’ve understood your feedback. By understanding both sides of the situation will allow you to find an effective solution together.
Once you’ve given feedback, ask for feedback in return. By doing this, you will demonstrate that you’re open to constructive advice and value their opinion, putting you on an equal footing. Ask specific questions about your performance to show you really want to hear from them and are not just paying lip service.
Be Tough, not Mean
When someone messes up at work and you have no alternative but to give immediate feedback, start by asking their perspective on the situation. Resist saying how stupid their actions were, even if that was the case.