A necessary facet of the modern workplace is constructive feedback. Receiving constructive feedback can sometimes be difficult and may induce that “butterflies-in-our-stomach” feeling, but, if we are able to tolerate the anxiety, feedback can lead to major professional and personal breakthroughs. Ironically, when it is your job to give the feedback, it can be equally anxiety-provoking. We have some ideas that may help!
What are some reasons we dread giving and receiving constructive feedback? In some company cultures, feedback has been branded as a punitive method of communicating information. Due to overwhelming schedules and back-to-back meeting-culture, there isn’t always time to provide regularly scheduled feedback sessions. As a result, constructive feedback may be relegated to “as-needed.” While some people are likely content with this set-up, it can also create a sense of uncertainty.
When preparing to receive feedback, take an honest look at your workplace performance— what’s working? In what areas do you have room for improvement? We ALL…always have areas that need extra attention, so instead of looking at them as weaknesses, reframe them as areas of growth and in your feedback session, try highlighting them instead of hiding them. We like to call them “growing edges” rather than weaknesses or problems.
If you are in a position to give constructive feedback, take the time to prepare. Simply collecting your thoughts, taking notes, and even writing out a few key phrases can help. Below, you can find some highlights on effective ways to give constructive feedback— feedback that doesn’t plant seeds of doubt and insecurity, but the kind that builds character and allows those receiving it the ability to grow and to thrive.
It is most effective to give feedback, positive or constructive, as close to the event as possible. By doing so, you are able to more easily reinforce or modify the behavior that needs attention.
No one likes vague feedback— it may be interpreted in many ways and for those of us who are wont to allow the thought spiral to be ever-expansive, this can be detrimental to productivity, morale, and even workplace longevity. If you can, provide examples as well as suggestions of how it could have gone more effectively.
If you give feedback, give it regularly. Sporadic feedback can feel like an emotional minefield, and can create a prickly work environment. When feedback is on a regular schedule, there are no surprises for the recipient.
There is a why to every action… so remember that when you are giving the feedback. Make sure to keep in mind that feedback isn’t meant to be punitive, but to help someone reframe a task or job in order to thrive and make a process go more smoothly.
Be sure to gather your thoughts before a feedback session. Have very clear examples of what is and is not working in order to make sure the person receiving the constructive feedback leaves the meeting with a clear action plan on how to do better.
When giving constructive feedback, it’s best not to speak in broad brushstrokes— don’t approach the job as a whole, give feedback on one or two things, and try to limit yourself to no more than two areas of growth. There may be more, but select the biggest two and work on those to start. You don’t want to leave the recipient feeling overwhelmed or demoralized.
Don’t forget the good stuff— just because someone may be struggling in an area or two of their performance doesn’t mean you should ignore the areas in which they are doing well. Highlight the positive things! It’s a good idea to start with AND end with a couple of positive comments about the individual’s overall performance. Remember that the goal of giving feedback is to help individuals and an organization grow.
The person you are giving feedback to might also have some feedback for you… be open to listening and reflecting on what they have to say. Sometimes we learn the most from those we are trying to teach.