When it comes to giving or receiving feedback at work, the process is often seen and felt as unnerving and stressful. It can feel like walking across a tightrope. However this isn’t the appropriate emotional environment in which to talk about an individual’s performance or discuss future goals. Understanding the contours of an optimal communicative context, which enables constructive feedback, is essential for higher performance and fulfilment in the workplace. Individuals and teams need to understand where they are effective, what they are doing well and not so well. Feedback that is given carefully and frequently is the key to this and to feeling balanced in the communicative process.
Keys for effective feedback
1. Clarity about intentions
Before giving feedback, it’s crucial that you know the reason why you’re giving feedback with the goal in mind of either improving the situation or performance. This means that preparation and being clear about what you are going to say are necessary. This helps you stay on track and stick to the relevant issues.
2. Responsibility for the feedback
Feedback needs to be given from your perspective. Using « I » is the first step to being responsible for the feedback given. It’s better to say : “I was annoyed when you publicly criticized my project” rather than “You were so unsupportive and critical when you did that”.
3. Specific feedback
Being specific is key to giving effective feedback. This means tellling the person precisely what they need to improve on. This ensures that there is less room for ambiguity. Being factual implies using language that is clear and can’t be interpreted wrongly by the person hearing the feedback. Telling someone that what they did was unprofessional isn’t clear enough. Similarly, it’s better not to exaggerate when making a point and better to avoid words like “never”, and “always”. In addition a feedback session shouldn’t discuss more than two issues as focusing on too many situations or problems risks leaving the person feeling demoralized.
4. Positive tone and style
A communicative style which is positive and focused on improvement is far more conducive than a critical or excessively harsh style which is not going to help you achieve this. The only room for a negative, confrontational style is if your‘e dealing with someone who’s intentions were bad or toxic (which is rarely the case). It’s better to avoid getting personal or seeking to blame.
For an optimal communicative context, it’s important to ask the person receiving the feedback to provide their perspective. Active listening entails asking what the person thinks and the improvements they envisage. It’s also essential to remember that feedback is dialogical, that is a two-way street which means you also need to model how to receive feedback.
With giving feedback, the closer to the event you address the issue, the better. It’s easier to give feedback about one task that hasn’t been done properly than to go over a whole year’s work which needs improving and changing. In this sense feedback is a process that requires constant attention and if it becomes necessary to say something, it is far better to say it than delay it. The benefit of this is that people know where they stand and problems don’t get out of hand. When feedback is given regularly in this way nothing that’s been said should be difficult to hear or come as a surprise.
7. Safe place
Giving feedback in public or in front of other people is not appropriate. Finding and establishing a safe place to talk where you won’t be overheard is essential to a positive feedback session.
Taking into account all these factors will help you create a harmonious and productive work environment when it comes to giving and receiving feedback.