Threading the Thin Line between Feedback and Criticism

Giving a feedback is very important in improving a lot of things. In a workplace, a good and honest feedback can help turn things around and help employees improve the way they work. Unfortunately, not everyone can give a feedback effectively without hurting other people’s feelings.

 The term “constructive criticism” has become synonymous to bashing or even putting somebody down. It is as if the term allows anyone to say something bad in the guise of being “constructive” or helpful. Not knowing how to effectively provide a feedback can result to demoralization and resentment. At times, it may even lead to arguments or internal conflicts which are counter-productive.

 Here are some helpful tips to help you develop the skill of providing effective feedback without the other person feeling criticized:

 1.Self check

Before you say a word to another person, examine yourself first. What is your motivation in providing the feedback? It is very important to know what drives you to provide a feedback. A failed project, for example, is a good reason to talk with the employees concerned. However, if you are driven by frustration or anger because the project did not succeed, then you need to step back first and rein your emotions.

 2.Establish what you want to achieve

What do you want to achieve at the end of your feedback session: is it only to get rid of your emotions or do you want the other person to learn from the experience? Making your goal clear will help you keep your conversation focused on what needs to be improved, rather than on whom to blame.

3.Put your feedback in a context

A feedback must be given to another person within a context. If the feedback is caused by a botched job, talk about the importance of the task and how it affects the individual, his/her co-workers, and even the company itself.

A context will focus the feedback to “what could we have done better” to achieve the objective, rather than “what you did wrong” that’s why we failed.

4.Deal with the facts and don’t jump to conclusions

Discuss what actually happened and not your conclusion about a person because of what happened. For example, you asked an employee to submit a report at the end of the day, but you received the report the following morning. The fact in this case is the report was submitted late; the conclusion is the employee is incompetent because he submitted the report late.

When you immediately jump to conclusion, you are already making a judgment. Asking the person why he was late in submitting the report (fact) will elicit an entirely different reaction than telling him he’s incompetent (conclusion).

5.Ask and listen

Everything happens for a reason and asking the concerned individual of his/her viewpoint will give you a better perspective of the problem. You already know that there was something wrong, but what caused it sometimes go beyond your own perception of the reason for failure.

Going back to the report example, asking the employee what contributed to the delay in the submission of the report will pinpoint the challenges s/he might have encountered while performing the task. You might have been vague about the instructions you provided and the employee lacked the initiative to ask for clarifications.

In that case, the feedback will focus more on developing the employee’s confidence and initiative to ask questions when needed, instead of dwelling on submitting the report on time.

6.Choice of word

The wrong word choice will cause resentment even if your intentions are pure. This is the reason why you need to keep your emotions out of the way when you provide a feedback. Negative emotions often elicit negative comments. “You’re incompetent” is meaner than saying “You’re not performing to the best of your abilities”. The first comment sounds like a final judgment on a person’s character, while the second one acknowledges that there are things that need to be improved.

7.Move forward—together

Don’t give a feedback just for the sake of giving one. The ultimate result of providing a feedback is for the receiving person to improve. On that note, you and the person you are talking with must come up with actionable plans about the “pain points” you have discussed. There must be an individual action plan and a set of resolution that both of you will work on together.

A collaborative action plan will make the person receiving the feedback feel that s/he is valued and that s/he will not be left alone to find the ways to be better. Again, ask the question “What can we do better the next time?”

Giving a feedback is an art form—when done right, it can build harmonious working relationship within the office. It is essential in keeping an active workforce that is conscious of what they are doing while staying motivated to get things done the right way.


(Article Contributed by Rico Enginco)

Published by admin at in category Workplace with 0 Comments    
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