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How to Give Feedback — Part Three: Giving Feedback

In our last post, we looked at how to structure the tone of feedback. Today, we will focus on the finer points of actually giving feedback.

Give Feedback in Person

Just like reading a book with an actual book feels more authentic than reading the same book on an iPad or listening to an audiobook, giving feedback is the same way. In-person feedback means more and makes a greater impact on the individual. If meeting in person is not possible, there are other options like video chatting or using the phone, but the ideal option is where you can see the person right in front of you.

Have Constructive Purpose for Feedback

“Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”

If you do not have a good purpose for the feedback, then do not give it. It does not help either person and could be taken as micromanaging or a nuisance.

Observation-Based Feedback

By nature, we use observations to make assumptions and inferences about the world around us. When giving feedback, make sure that you are using observation-based language rather than assumptions. Describe the observation and the impact it makes, while avoiding using judgement and assumptions. Keeping feedback observation-based and judgement-free, the person receiving feedback will be less likely to treat the feedback like criticism or take it personally.

Behaviour-Focused Feedback

Feedback should never be about the individual. It is always about the process or action. You want to improve the way your employees work, not change who they are. Also, be sensitive to the individual. Some people can be more sensitive to feedback than others and quickly react to feedback negatively. Using behaviour-focused language will help to separate process from the person while helping them build confidence.

Avoid Feedback Overload

If you were just beginning to learn how to swim and your instructor simply told you that you had to alternate your feet in a kicking manner while moving your arms in a windmill fashion and remember to breathe every three strokes, you would probably feel quite overwhelmed. You might even try to do everything all at once only to realize that every time you focused on kicking you forgot your arms, or while you were focusing on both your arms and legs, you find yourself choking because you have been holding your breath the whole time. You might even give up and just choose to wade in the water in the end instead.

Long story short, feedback can be overwhelming. Prioritize your feedback and break it down into two or three digestible portions so that the person is not trying to juggle changes in too many processes all at once. Make sure that you clearly state what needs to be improved so that the overall message is not lost in individual pieces of feedback.

Balance Positive and Negative Feedback

Too much of positive or negative feedback can overshadow the other message. For example, if you only give positive feedback, in the off chance that you give negative feedback, the negative feedback will not be taken as seriously. Similarly, if the situation was reversed, then the person who is unaccustomed to receiving praise or positive feedback will not trust it.

Harness the power of employee ideas.