On the Scary Subject of Feedback

Posted In: Technical Skills
Posted On: 4/17/2013

Sure, it’s great when you are a rock star at work. Your accomplishments are many. Your accolades are numerous. But what about the rest of us? The rest of us who have something to work on. You know, “developmental” areas. Well, here’s the good news: constructive feedback on your performance is a gift! While positive feedback is a great confidence builder, negative feedback will help you improve your performance. If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, then how can you fix it? All feedback is good and helpful…if delivered and received in the right way.

So let’s start with how to receive feedback effectively. First, listen carefully. If someone is taking the time to give you feedback, really listen to all that they are saying—even if you don’t agree. Second, take copious notes. Sometimes when getting feedback, we only hear what we want to hear and you don’t want to miss something that’s important to the person giving you the

If you don't know what you're doing wrong, then how can you fix it?

feedback. Your notes will help you remember what was really said. Next, don’t overreact or argue with the feedback. Getting emotional in the moment does not help you with the boss. If you don’t agree, take the time to listen to the points and reflect on them after the meeting. You can always refute the feedback once you have had the time to think through it clearly. So be sure to ask for specific examples so you can better understand the reviewer’s point of view. And always schedule a follow-up meeting so that you can calmly collect your facts and thoughts in the interim. Finally, work with your boss to develop a plan to address any concerns that were shared. You want to be proactive in your approach to resolving issues of your performance. That way the boss knows that you heard him, you take the feedback seriously, and you want to develop your skill set.

What about giving feedback to others? There is always a time and a place for giving constructive feedback. Positive feedback can be given in front of others or in private. But negative feedback should always be given in private. No one wants to hear what they have done wrong and they certainly don’t want anyone else to hear it. Beyond that, make sure that you give concrete examples of both the good and the bad. It really helps someone to have a mental picture of what they did and providing a context for feedback makes it easier to understand. Also, look for consistent themes, not just a one-off experience. For example, someone could be having a bad day and is abrupt. Let it slide. But if their style is always rude, then they need to be told this is an issue. One final thought—be authentic and generous with your positive feedback to others! All of us love to be recognized for our true accomplishments. That personal dialogue will build a bond that can enhance your working relationship. So jump into the feedback pool—the water is just fine!