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How to Give Feedback — Part Two: Structuring the Tone of Feedback

In our last post, we looked at how to create a structure for formal review. Today, we will focus on structuring the tone of feedback.

Giving and receiving honest, open feedback can be scary for both parties. Here are five ways to ensure that the way you give feedback with the right tone to promote further conversations and discussions.

Create Safety

If the person receiving feedback feels like they are being attacked, the feedback given will be counterproductive. As a leader, you want to create an environment where employees do not feel like feedback is personal but rather constructive. Focus on creating opportunities that allow employees to build on their both their soft and core skills.

Be Specific

People respond better to specific feedback because it gives them direction for improving their performance. Vague feedback can be misunderstood or just altogether ignored. For example, “You need to meet these metrics” is vague and offers no direction or suggestions for improving the numbers. Instead saying something like, “Try some A/B testing to figure out the best configuration for our website and boost the number of website visits.” Similarly, avoid “need to” phrases because not only do they carry a negative connotation, but also, they are vague.

Be Immediate

Most people cannot even remember what they had for lunch, let alone something they did last week or last month. We recommended in an earlier post that one a week is a good frequency to start structured reviews. Gradually as the team begins to run smoothly, you will likely decrease the frequency of formal reviews to bi-weekly or monthly meetings. If you are saving your feedback for four weeks and waiting for the formal review before you tell your employee about how they can improve, they will have wasted the last four weeks doing something that they could have done better. So, as you decrease the frequency of formal opportunities, do not let that limit you to when you can give feedback. The more immediate it is, the greater the impact of the feedback.

Be Sincere

Keep feedback sincere. Sincere feedback means that you say what you mean. One way to be sincere is to avoid mixing messages. One example of mixed messaging is the “yes… but…” phrase. Anything preceded by “however,” “although,” or “but” indicates a contradiction. When you use mixed messages, it negates the first half of the sentence or phrase which translates to, “Do not believe what I am saying.”

Use Appreciation and Concern

Appreciation and concern are powerful motivators. Both tones convey care and importance, thus adding weight to your message. Appreciation by nature is praise, and effective employee recognition can decrease turnover rates and improve productivity. Concern conveys importance without turning feedback into criticism like other tones like sarcasm or anger can do.

Let us know how you used these tips to help give feedback more effectively in the comments below. Also take a look at our first post on How to Structure Formalized Review to help you set up scheduled feedback sessions.

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