Giving And Receiving Feedback: Are we doing it right?
By Leonard Kok
All of us have, at one time or another, given or received feedback for some assignment or job done. Look at the pictures below. They are labelled (A) to (H) for easy reference. Was/Is your situation very similar to what is depicted? You might even want to form a small group to discuss the pictures (and perhaps have a good laugh over them!)
If you are in small groups, you may want to share:
(a)Which picture best described the situation(s) where you received or gave feedback.
(b) Why did you feel that way?
Feedback is an appraisal given to the person or team after an action is executed. Many people have many labels for it but the basic purpose of giving feedback is mainly to provide timely response so that improvement in future scenarios will be made possible. All organisations have some kind of system and structure to deliver feedback to the person(s) involved for formative, summative and incentive-related purposes.
In what way do we deliver and give feedback? Where and when do we provide feedback and how do we do it in such a way which promotes professional and even personal growth?
Basic Guidelines for Giving Feedback
McGill and Beatty (in “Action learning: A practitioner’s guide”, London: Kogan Page, 1994, p. 159-163) provide useful suggestions about giving effective feedback:
1. Clarity — Be clear about what you want to say.
2. Emphasize the positive — This isn’t being collusive in the person’s dilemma.
3. Be specific — Avoid general comments and clarify pronouns such as “it,” “that,” etc.
4. Focus on behaviour rather than the person.
5. Refer to behaviour that can be changed.
6. Be descriptive rather than evaluative.
7. Own the feedback — Use ‘I’ statements.
8. Generalizations — Notice “all,” “never,” “always,” etc., and ask to get more specificity — often these words are arbitrary limits on behaviour.
9. Be very careful with advice — People rarely struggle with an issue because of the lack of some specific piece of information; often, the best help is helping the person to come to a better understanding of their issue, how it developed, and how they can identify actions to address the issue more effectively.
When Not To Give Feedback
Constructive feedback should not be used under three conditions:
1. When the employee cannot take any action on the constructive feedback. The problem is not within his or her power to change.
2. When the person giving the constructive feedback is overstressed or has a limited amount of time. Coaching sessions demand time and calm. Once a manager loses his or her temper, the feedback loses its impact because the person receiving the feedback has shut down and is no longer listening.
3. When the focus is on the person, not the person’s behaviour or performance. In giving constructive feedback, out intention should be to modify the individual’s performance or behaviour. It’s a big mistake to focus on trying to change someone’s personality.
What If The Feedback Is Negative?
If you have to give negative feedback, be particularly careful (but don’t have to avoid it).
1.Avoid giving negative feedback in public. It is a good rule to criticise in private, praise in public
2. Avoid historical references. Present information on “here and now” as opposed to “there and then”
3. Avoid undue emotion – don’t lose your cool or patience – over reacting will produce defensiveness. Talk when you are calm and objective
Try this Template!
If a person (could be your co-worker, your subordinate, your partner, or even you) is not doing well, how should the person be informed? Try this:
“Hi _________________ (fill in the person’s name), When you do this ________________” (specify the behaviour)
“It is a problem because ________________” (specify how the problem is affecting you/the team )
“Next time ________________” (specify what you want the person/team to do).
What If The Person Is Angry?
Sometimes, if the person is not progressing well they become angry (as much with themselves as with you). The following provides some guidelines:
- Describe, don’t accuse. Use active listening to defuse the emotion in the situation. Make sure you are communicating a feeling rather than blaming
- Take a joint problem solving approach. Use paraphrasing and open ended questions
What If You Are On The Receiving End?
Practise the 3As
|Take all criticism as “legitimate” and then move to assess its merit.|
|Of whether the criticism is really valid or not.
To determine if criticism is valid, you should ask:
|3 Decide what you want to do about the criticism.|
A nice model to use for providing feedback that enables the person or team to blossom and grow is the Hamburger Principle. A Basic hamburger has 3 layers. So, following the 3-layer principle, We have
With the above model, feedback will be more constructive as it provides avenues for growth and development.