Strategies for Ensuring That Your Feedback is Well-Received

It may be necessary at times to offer feedback to a co-worker or supervisor. This means explaining the good points about a situation, and areas in which improvement is needed. You may need to tell a co-worker how well he or she is doing a specific job task, for example, or tell a supervisor how a new departmental process is working out.

When considering if and how to give feedback to someone, especially if there is a negative aspect to the message, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Think about the reason for the feedback. Do you truly want to help the employee or workplace to become better? Or could your desire to give feedback be based on your own personality or emotions? Perhaps you have a general tendency to complain, and/or you enjoy the idea of criticizing someone else. Assess your motives carefully, and remember that feedback should always be given with the goal of improving a person or situation.

  • Consider whether the feedback will be welcomed. People are usually less open to feedback when they haven’t solicited or asked for it. Offer an unsolicited opinion only if you feel that it will be appreciated or valued. This includes making sure that it's appropriate for you to get involved, given your job role and that of the other person. In other words, if there’s a risk of being told that "it’s none of your business," maybe it isn’t!

  • Make it well-timed. Should you decide to offer an unsolicited opinion, it's important to do so within a suitable time frame. Feedback offered too long after a situation has taken place is not useful, and the other person may resent you for bringing something to his or her attention so long after the fact. Find a good time close to the event to sit down with the other person and ask if you might offer some useful feedback. Then do so, politely and respectfully, so he or she can receive your feedback in the right frame of mind, and without feeling criticized or threatened.

  • Own your feedback. In other words, personalize your feedback as being your own thoughts, suggestions, and advice. For instance, you might say, "I think it might be better to do it this way" rather than "You’re doing it the wrong way." This would reduce of the chances of a defensive reaction from the other person.

  • Offer manageable advice. It doesn't help to make suggestions that aren't easy to achieve. That only causes worry, frustration, and failure. Make sure your ideas are possible for the other person to achieve.

  • Focus on the positive. Balance positive and negative feedback. Offer an honest summary of what the person is doing right, before discussing areas of weakness or errors.

  • Be specific. Offering vague or indirect suggestions doesn’t help the other person make any necessary changes. Instead of noting a general behavior or problem, describe a specific issue or action with clear examples. These examples should illustrate the issue at hand as well as ways things can be done differently or better. This method will help the other person understand exactly what your concern is, and how to resolve it.

  • Make your feedback relevant. Any suggestions you make should be job-related. Comments or feedback about other people, employers, or situations outside the workplace would not be helpful or appropriate.

  • Check for understanding. Explain your suggestions in detail with the other person, and ask questions to make sure that he or she knows what you’re saying.

  • Be supportive. After giving feedback, offer your help the other person apply the suggestions you’ve made. Stressing the "teamwork" aspect will help him or her to know you want to work together to achieve mutual goals for the benefit of each other and the employer.

Keep in mind, "It’s not just what you say, but how you say it!" Even if your feedback is solid and necessary, if you say it in a way that’s rude, or hurtful, the other person could become defensive, angry, or hostile in return. This will make the situation worse rather than better. Focus instead on giving feedback that is courteous, constructive or helpful, and clearly intended to make a situation better.

One way to do this is to show empathy, or the ability to understand another's feelings. When choosing your words and method, carefully consider how you would feel if YOU were the person receiving the feedback. This can help you shape your message in a way that will be looked upon as useful advice rather than damaging criticism.

Be sure to check out another post, Responding to Feedback with Grace and Professionalism, for tips on receiving feedback in the best possible way.

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