Giving quality feedback is a very important skill to develop. Here are the rules of thumb that I try to stick to when giving feedback:
Additionally, for me the process is the same for giving feedback upward. It might feel uncomfortable to give feedback, but I have found that the more I give feedback and practice giving feedback, the easier it becomes.
The goal of feedback is to change behaviors, it should be acute, actionable, and immediate. Letting incidents fester can build misunderstanding and resentment, especially in a performance review setting where compensation and career options are on the table. Rather, offer coaching immediately when the opportunity presents itself, and in private so as to avoid embarrassment. Upward feedback should revolve around increasing group effectiveness, not personal preferences. While it may be tempting to be highly critical towards leadership, everyone present has to work together afterwards. Don’t allow criticism to burn important bridges. Be kind and ensure the requested changes work towards the success of the organization.
When sharing feedback, start out with a clear identification of what prompted feedback. Ex: I have noticed when you have multiple projects (topic), sometimes you seem flustered with the workload (observation), and deadlines may not be met (result).
You’ve not only identified the issue but observed consequence of the behavior. Have solutions prepared to share and make them relatable, but always keep open discussion so you’re not just talking at someone. Ex: I sometimes struggle with this as well (relatable) and have found that reviewing prioritization as well as utilizing my calendar in planning specific action items (possible solution), helps keep me on task (outcome). If it’s positive feedback, follow the same structure: identify the behavior, why you noticed, and the outcome.
Always remember, feedback is a gift.
Feedback is one of the most important things, but it must always be based on facts, not rooted in opinions or feelings. Providing concrete, factual examples for feedback, both positive and constructive, is the most effective way to communicate clearly and have productive conversations. You also want to be sure to provide specific next steps, including timing, for follow-up to the conversation. You also should be sure that you recap the conversation to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Timing is also critical. While there is not always a perfect time for feedback, there are inopportune times that you’ll want to avoid.
For giving upward feedback, facts are still the most important, but you also must be sure to gauge how receptive that individual will be. Often, the feedback would be better taken if framed more as a suggestion.
Any 360 feedback is a critical component of an employee’s professional development. The process is not universal and may vary based on corporate culture. Having a general awareness of the company culture is critical as that may dictate how the feedback is received and perceived by peers or direct reports and especially upwards. Generally, the harder discussions are typically the ones involving improvements and gaps for employee work products or behaviors. In these instances, getting feedback from other associates also becomes important. Such feedback will incorporate a response from relevant internal customers/associates besides just the direct supervisor. It is imperative the feedback is honest, constructive, timely, and is provided in the right spirit.
This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.
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