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“Honest criticism is hard to take, particularly from a relative, a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger.”

Franklin P Jones


Feedback is how you let colleagues know how well they are doing their work and how their behaviours are undermining or supporting their effectiveness.

Whether you are giving motivational feedback to let someone know what they did well and why it was good, or you are giving developmental feedback, telling someone what needs to be changed and how to do it, feedback can be of great value or it can be harmful.

You may have experience yourself of being on the receiving end of negative and critical remarks that undermined your confidence or at least lead to you shut down to learning and resistant to making any changes.

How can you ensure you do better when you give feedback? Here are some tips that might help. Make feedback:

  1. Specific. Use examples of what’s working or what could be improved or done differently. “The data you gave me was accurate, clear and on time which meant I was well prepared for the meeting”
  2. Descriptive rather than evaluative. Talk about what you noticed, not your interpretation of what you saw. “You were slouching in your chair and looking out of the window” rather than “You weren’t interested”
  3. Objective. Ensure your comments are neutral and based on fact. “You have been over 10 minutes late three times this week, rather than “You’re always late!”
  4. Observed. Based on what you personally saw or heard.
  5. Balanced. Forget the “praise sandwich,” where you give a positive, a negative and a positive. So many people are familiar with it they ignore the praise and are waiting for the criticism. Do make sure that you give praise where it is due and succinct clear advice or suggestions when needed. Aim for an overall balance between the two although that won’t always be in the same conversation.
  6. Timely. Many people resist giving feedback because they fear it will lead to conflict and drama but putting it off until it can’t be ignored any longer is more likely to prompt this very outcome. Give feedback as close as possible to the event or behaviour being commented upon.
  7. Action Focused. Feedback needs to be directed towards behaviours that people can do something about rather than vague concepts or personality traits.


What do you do to ensure your feedback is constructive and effective?

What examples of poor feedback do you have?

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