The art of giving feedback

We receive and give feedback every day - at work, at home, in public places. That is good because, as human beings, we need to coordinate our actions with other people.

In a perfect world, feedback is useful for both parties — givers and receivers. However, in real life, it mostly serves givers in sharing their dissatisfaction but does not give much help to receivers. That is a bit illogical because the primary goal of feedback is to help others to change their behavior. So, it is better to explain something properly once and see the result instead of repeating it a hundred times but to no avail.

Invest in future communication

Imagine a situation: Your colleague has a habit of micro-managing - regularly gives you and other team members some small tasks in a commanding tone while meeting them in the kitchen or the lounge.

Which behavior strategy would you choose?

Option 1. You can sometimes complete tasks, sometimes ignore them, sometimes reject completing them, but continue feeling irritation and pressure at work (and avoid visiting kitchen and lounge).

Option 2. You can give detailed feedback to your colleague, explaining how his/her behavior affects you. You can even find out how to solve this issue together (change the tone of voice/create tasks in the tracking system/share written requests via Slack or your direct manager, etc.). After some time, you can visit the kitchen and lounge without fear to meet your colleague and come home in a good mood. Moreover, other team members notice that communication with that colleague became more convenient and productive.

What would you choose?

Of course, Option 2 looks much better. However, Option 1 is more popular among people who don't know how to give feedback properly.

Let's learn!

Imagine another situation: your colleague often comes late to work meetings. It causes some inconvenience and bad moods. You want to stop this. Let's clarify step by step what you can do.

Step 1. Choose the right time.
The best feedback is a timely one. However, it is better to spend some time to calm down, recall a few cases, and figure out what you are going to say.

Step 2. Choose the right words.
The same idea can be said in different words. These words can represent the difference between good and bad feedback.

These are 4 primary components of good feedback. It is easy to make a mistake in each one. So, here is a list of them with good and bad examples.

a) Behavioral - the main reason for feedback. It can be actions or behavior, but not a person in general.

| Bad: You are an unpunctual person!
| Good: I noticed you come late to our team meetings. It delayed the process and kept all of the participants.

b) Emotional - usually, it is a consequence of the behavioral part; please express your emotions; do not assume anyone else's feelings.

| Bad: You looked so calm when everyone else was irritated.
| Good: I feel exhausted when I have to work late due to our delayed meetings.

c) Examples - please recall some particular cases, do not generalize, and do not rely on rumors.

| Bad: Everyone notices it, you do it regularly.
| Good: It happened two times during the last week: you came late to the call with the client and department meeting.

d) Suggestion - how you expect the problem can be resolved; please avoid a commanding tone.

| Bad: Stop doing that!
| Good: Please do your best to improve your time-management or at least inform the team beforehand.

There are 2 additional components, which are more relevant for the oral feedback, but are applicable for a written as well:

e) Verification - check out with a person whether you understood each other correctly.

| Bad: No check out at all.
| Good: Please correct me if I am wrong, ready to discuss in person, will be in the office on Monday, available on Slack.

f) Recommendation - it is essential to be very careful here since no-one likes unsolicited advice.

| Bad: You'd better read this book about management.
| Good: I had a similar situation a year ago, and I completely solved it with the help of Google Calendar, reminders, vacation, and loud alarm clock.

Step 3. Choose the right tool.


You can give feedback either in a written or in an oral form. However, you should have a convenient place for preparing drafts before meeting or sharing a well-structured written message.

Step 4. Enjoy!

Cause working in a team with people who value feedback is a real pleasure.

Positive feedback

By the way, even positive feedback requires structure and time for preparing.

Which feedback would motivate you more (to continue doing something cool)?

Example 1:
Hi! Thank you for sharing the feedback. That is cool, I do appreciate it!

Example 2:
  • I noticed that you give feedback constantly. (the behavioral component)
  • It makes me feel happy since it improves our team communication and aligns with our corporate values. (emotional)
  • In particular, I saw in statistics of Plai that each week you give one feedback and receive one from your colleague. Moreover, you shared your feedback with me during our last strategy meeting. (examples)
  • It would be great to maintain such cool feedback frequency and quality. (Suggestion)
  • I am sure our team would work even better if you could share your knowledge during our team meeting. (Recommendation)
  • Should you need any help, please contact me... (Verification)

I hope Example 2 won this battle and wish you to receive this type of feedback as often as possible.

Summary

Long story short, feedback is everywhere; however, useful feedback requires following some simple recommendations:

  • Spend some time to prepare the right words.
  • Make your speech or message well-structured (describe behavior or problem, express emotions, bring examples, explain your suggestion, verify whether another person understood you, and be ready to offer recommendations).
  • Save structure even while sharing positive feedback.

Good luck!

Check out a simple free tool Plai to ask and give feedback. Leverage tips, suggestions, and templates to help your team get started. Forward-thinking companies are already using Plai to create a culture of feedback.
21 November / 2019
Author: Anna Danovska
HR expert

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