How To Give Good Feedback

June 11, 2021

how to give good feedback

A majority of people dread being reviewed. Whether it’s every 6 months or a year, most people don’t look forward to being reviewed by their boss. Typically people fall into 2 different traps when giving feedback: being too indirect or being too direct. The indirect method doesn’t accomplish much as the feedback isn’t processed a majority of the time. On the other hand, being too direct makes the other person become defensive or retreat from the discussion and the overall message of doing better is lost completely.

There are ways to get rid of this stigma that feedback is bad. For starters, feedback can be positive or negative, although most people are only used to the negative ones. Turn a compliment into positive feedback by elaborating on why the person did well. According to cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renninger, good feedback or expressing difficult to say messages can be made easy by following 4 steps.

The Micro Yes

Renninger explains this as a short question that gets the feedback started. No one likes advice that isn’t asked for and this falls into the same realm. By asking a question such as, “I came up with some ideas about improving, would you have time to talk about them?”, you effectively are asking permission to give feedback. This consent makes a difference as it makes both parties involved in the process as opposed to having one party impose their opinion on a second party.

Explaining Data

This step involves using specific examples to present to the other party. This is important because being too general causes problems. Saying, “you need to turn in work on time” puts someone into a defensive position and instead of listening to you, they’ll just push their point and nothing will be resolved. Instead, you should say, “you told me you’d give me the report by 1 pm and I still don’t have it yet.” The second sentence points out the specific event which triggered you talking to them. Being specific is also important when giving positive feedback as well, you want the other person to know exactly what they are being praised for so they can continue to do it. Make sure you only use objective language, speaking in a way that is quantifiable or based on data while explaining the example cuts out opinions and stops the other party from feeling attacked.

Showing The Impact

When asking people to make a change it is always important to explain the impact that it makes. Explaining the “why” behind an action is oftentimes what motivates people to make a change. Using the example from before, saying, “You told me you’d give me the report by 1 pm, and I still don’t have it. The data in that report is what we’re basing our quarter 4 budget on so it’s important that it gets to me soon.” This example creates a connection between their task and the task of other people on the team, it also establishes the overall goal and how they contribute to it. You want to stay objective during this step as well. 

That last example shows a negative but this also works for positive feedback. If someone on the team finished excess work, it is important to mention what it is they did and why it made such an impact. Regularizing this type of feedback will slowly eliminate the fear of reviews and feedback in your workplace.

Finish With A Question

You should always “end” on a question. To put it differently, you should always ask the other person about their thoughts or input on the subject. Referring back to the previous example scenario, asking what the other person could do next time to avoid the situation will help. It moves past the previous situation and it becomes more of a proactive collaboration as opposed to a reactive scolding. Renninger also stated that asking for the other party’s opinion makes it a commitment as opposed to compliance, making it much more of a learning experience than being scolded. The traditional way of doing things would make a review very one sided, where one person is being scolded and the other sits there and listens, this new, more collaborative way basically ends in a brainstorming session on how to improve.

Other Tips For Better Feedback Sessions

Just a general rule for “touchy” sort of matters, hold them in private. For something like a review or giving feedback, make sure you and the involved party are away from others. Being told that you need to improve is hard enough, it shouldn’t be turned into a public show.

Stay consistent in your feedback. You don’t want to sugarcoat the truth. If the feedback is meant to get someone to perform better, you don’t want to hide it among compliments. Just stay consistent so the message isn’t lost.

Having it become a regularized event means people will become accustomed to it. The fear will go away over time, but make sure that there is a mix of both positive and negative feedback sessions. You don’t want to regularize criticisms every week, people will come to dread them again.

In line with having feedback done regularly, you should act while the event is still fresh in everyone’s minds. A feedback session after the incident is easier to talk about compared to doing 1 review a year and going down a list of errors or accomplishments. Note that after the incident doesn’t mean immediately after, it could be the following day, the event just has to be fresh in everyone’s minds still.

Following these tips at any level of the business will produce better results from feedback. Inline with giving great feedback, it is important that you learn to take feedback constructively, make sure you ask for feedback regularly. This helps in two ways, if you take what is said as ways you can improve and not as attacks, you can better yourself, also if said person isn’t giving feedback well, you can still learn from it as it shows you what you shouldn’t be doing.

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