When was the last time you gave someone feedback?
And no, I’m not talking about a murmured ‘well done’ or a ‘not bad’ – or even a high five – they just don’t make the cut. They don’t pass my acid test of ‘is the feedback so clear that an impartial observer would back you up?’ They don’t nail the essentials of being considered, clear and actionable.
When I say this in one of my training workshops, there’s usually some squirming, and sometimes resistance. Many people are uncomfortable about feedback (more in some cultures than others). So they make excuses not to do it. Here are the excuses I hear most often – with suggestions for how you can beat them.
“I don’t want to be a creep”
Yes, the idea that feedback can be positive – praise – can surprise some. Yet it’s part of your job if you’re a manager (and even if you’re not you may be asked to give feedback about a colleague’s performance). Don’t assume that people ‘just know’ how they’re doing – they often don’t. What’s more, if you’re their manager it’s important to show you’ve noticed. That way, your recipient will be getting a clear signal from you about what to do more of.
Beat this excuse by developing the habit of spotting people doing things right – and saying so. No need for a speech; just a sentence or two that clearly states the praiseworthy behaviour you’ve observed. Aim for more positive than negative feedback over time.
“I don’t want to upset them”
Quite right too. There’s enough stress and overwhelm in the typical workplace without you piling on more by tearing into someone and upsetting them. But where is it written that feedback has to do that? If someone’s performance isn’t up to the mark and you don’t give them feedback about it, the behaviour will no doubt continue. This can get toxic as their colleagues observe the person getting away with it. You need to nip poor performance in the bud. This requires you to give clear feedback. Still not sure? Put yourself in their shoes – if you were doing a sub-standard job (quite possibly blissfully unaware), would you rather your colleagues were all sniping about it or your manager gave you some feedback to help you take remedial action?
Beat this excuse by giving crystal-clear feedback on the problem behaviour and the impact it’s having. Keep it short and get your recipient involved in the conversation (don’t rant), giving them the last word about what action they’ll take. Don’t dress it up or serve up the proverbial ‘feedback sandwich’.
“I haven’t got time”
Well of course you haven’t if you’re stewing over how to talk to your colleagues without upsetting them, or joining in the gripe-fest over poor performance that’s going unchecked, or fretting about being seen as a creep. Welcome to your job. You’ve no doubt heard the phrases ‘working IN the business’ and working ON the business’, right? Well, it’s the same idea with people: you work with them on stuff – getting things done or WHAT they do – and you work with them on HOW they go about it – their behaviour.
Beat this excuse by getting in the habit of giving feedback little and often, as part of how you go about your everyday interactions with colleagues. Build feedback into the everyday workflow: after a meeting or conference call, on completion of a task or a project, during a break whilst grabbing a coffee. Over time, people will get the message that you notice how they’re doing and they’ll know where they stand with you.
Image: Iacob Carmen Karin