Giving feedback is a critically important part of the communication process within the workplace. Most people find it easy to offer positive comments but avoid giving negative feedback because they fear confrontation and conflict.
While criticism isn’t easy for anyone, it is necessary to receive honest appraisals from those you work with in order to better understand where you stand with your co-workers and supervisors. Unfortunately, the need for improvement is not always conveyed or responded to in a constructive fashion.
Giving feedback requires specific skills you can learn if you practice. Below is a list of suggestions that can greatly improve your communication and result in better interpersonal relationships and performance at work.
1. Provide information that is descriptive and objective. When describing your thoughts stick to the facts rather than bringing in your personal interpretation as much as possible.
2. Avoid using labels to describe behavior such as “unprofessional” or “irresponsible.” These words are ambiguous and unclear and do little to help the receiver understand what you are looking for.
3. Try to eliminate extreme words such as “always” or “never.” These words often trigger a defensive reaction and will draw the conversation away from the real issue.
4. Avoid words that convey value judgments or personal attacks such as “good,” “bad,” “stupid,” or “incompetent.” These words reflect an authoritarian interpersonal style which greatly undermines the value of the feedback. Rather than telling someone that they are rude or insensitive, it would be better to say something such as, “You have been late three days in a row and consequently missed the first 15 minutes of the last three team meetings. This has put us all behind schedule.”
5. Assess the receiver’s readiness for the feedback. Timing is important, so if you sense that the person is emotionally vulnerable, postpone your conversation for another time.
6. Take responsibility for the feedback given by speaking for yourself instead of for an absent or anonymous third party.
7. Make sure your emotions are in check before giving feedback. If you are feeling frustrated or angry, wait until you can be more objective.
8. Direct your comments at behaviors that can be modified or changed as opposed to something that is out of the person’s control. Use “I” statements to describe the behavior(s) that are impacting you or your company. For example, “When you turn in your report after the deadline, I feel frustrated because it delays the completion of our department’s final report.”
9. Make sure the feedback is goal oriented. Keep in mind how your input will assist the receiver in achieving specific personal or company goals. Avoid giving feedback for the sole purpose of venting your frustration or irritation.
10. Take time to make sure that what you intended to say was clearly understood. Ask the receiver to rephrase what you communicated to them and then use that opportunity to clarify your feedback if necessary.
These principles can be applied to personal as well as professional relationships but are especially helpful to maintain appropriate boundaries and behavior in the workplace. Stay focused on the goal of effective, efficient operation of your business with every person doing their part and knowing that they are a valued team member.
Giving feedback isn’t always easy or comfortable, but if it’s done skillfully, it will make your workplace a better place to work!
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