Too many of us still avoid giving feedback to our colleagues at work. We know there’s an elephant in the room (or office, to be more precise) and we know that all parties stand to benefit from discussing it. But still we bury our heads in the sand.

Sound familiar? If so, comfort yourself in the knowledge that you’re not alone. The issue is widespread. The problem is that, in some cases, the absence of feedback conversations could be damaging for businesses.

A change of mind-set is needed and we must all learn to see giving constructive feedback as essential. Something we do routinely as, and where, required.

Doing this will:

·         Help those of us receiving feedback to learn and grow professionally, potentially leading to higher performance

·         Help to resolve or reverse small issues before they become far bigger problems.

Feedback: Can you handle it?

We covered giving and receiving ‘difficult’ feedback in our recent webinar ‘Feedback: Can you handle it?’ This is based on our training workshops. If it’s of interest, you can watch the full webinar here.

Or, look at some of the questions that were answered by our experts in the session in the below Q&A.

1.How do I give feedback upwards (to my manager)?

“Essentially, giving upwards feedback should not be approached any differently. Use your judgement, ensure you’re well prepared and refer to our SHIFT framework – these are all principles that apply to any feedback scenario. The key is context and thinking about how you should adapt your approach to have the most constructive conversation with the person you’re giving feedback to.

Write down some details on how you’ll frame the conversation, your stated intention for having it, how will you gain the recipient’s agreement and so on. By reading this through before having the conversation, you should be better prepared mentally on the structure enabling you to apply your natural feedback style.”

2.What if you don’t agree with the feedback – if you feel it is wrong?

“Of course it’s possible that you’re given feedback that you feel is inaccurate. What’s important here is how you respond to it. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with what’s been said, there’s a misconception and there are some steps you must follow to ensure you can respond in a way that’s constructive. First, this means acknowledging (not agreeing with) their feedback. And then exploring, in an open way, with them why they have this perception, what it is they’ve observed and what is causing the difference of opinion between you. This could shed some light and open up dialogue.”

3.What happens if someone has a very extreme reaction to the feedback you give – i.e. getting visibly upset; should you abort the conversation?

“Having an emotional response to feedback is not uncommon. We relate it to our think, feel do model whereby what you think about the feedback will determine how you feel about it, and in turn, what you do – your behaviour or action.

If someone reacts really badly to feedback you deliver, they’re stuck in that ‘feel’ state where they can’t get beyond the ‘fight or flight’ mentality. Continuing the conversation in such a scenario is the worst thing you could do. End it there and agree to continue it at a later stage. This then gives you the chance to properly frame the conversation again, get the recipient in the right mind-set and thinking about the feedback in a positive way, so that you can move past unhelpful emotional feelings and have a constructive conversation.”

4.How can we deal effectively with feedback in an open-plan office?

“This is a common challenge for companies in industries such as retail. There’s a perception among observers that, whenever someone is called away by their manager, they’re in trouble. We’d encourage people to start framing the conversation as you first approach the intended recipient – explaining, straight away what it is you’d like to talk about. This avoids gossiping and speculating from anyone else in earshot. It also helps to head off any potential trepidation or feelings of unease in the recipient.”

5.How should we handle someone who just will not accept feedback of any nature?

“Here, you need to give them the feedback about your perception of them being unwilling to accept any feedback. Go through each step of our framework and convey the impact that this behaviour is having – both on the individual relationship and the wider team.”

6.How should you best give feedback that’s come from a third party without it sounding as though you’re ‘passing the buck’?

“It’s important that the person delivering a piece of feedback takes some level of ownership of it –even when it has been provided by one or more other people. Tempting as it might be to make the conversation less awkward by distancing yourself from the feedback, this is not advisable.

So really, if you agree to deliver feedback, you must also agree with it. Clearly, it’s useful to get as much information as possible from those that have raised the issue to ensure you fully understand it and can provide details and instances. Another way to go, of course, is to encourage the individuals to have a direct conversation with the intended recipient themselves, if appropriate, and if they feel confident to do so.”

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