Bespoken Management

How to Give Productive Feedback

Productive feedback is an important part of any company’s internal communication processes. It should be given regularly in both positive and negative situations to reinforce trust and healthy, honest dialogue across the board. Managers especially need to master this process.

Giving positive feedback isn’t typically the issue. It’s the negative feedback that’s tough. What makes it so tough is that, according to the Harvard Review, “people generally respond more strongly to negative events than positive ones. In other words, we are usually more upset about losing $100 than we are happy about winning $100.” 

Though it can be unpleasant, negative feedback is a necessary part of keeping any business afloat. Here are some tips to make sure your feedback is always productive and effective:

Be Immediate

People respond best to criticism in the moment, so bring up your thoughts as they arise. If you wait months to mention something, it will likely seem too vague to act on. Or they might not even remember the situation you’re referring to. 

Be Specific

Refer to a particular incident or time rather than pointing out something more general about someone’s habits or character. Sticking to the former will help them to improve the next time the issue arises rather than feel like they’re being attacked.

Purpose is Everything

Straying from the purpose of the feedback. Don’t let your emotions take over. Sort out what went wrong and what might be done to make things better in the future.

Balance the Conversation

If you feel that giving feedback is necessary, you probably have some solutions in mind. It’s important to convey those ideas during the conversation to show that you are invested in helping, not just criticizing for criticism’s sake.

It’s about Action

When giving feedback in the professional realm, keep in mind that “we are paid for our work, not  to change our identity.”  Steer clear of criticizing personal characteristics and stick to looking at what someone can do to improve a situation.

Hear Them Out

Give the other person an opportunity to respond. Once you’ve said your peace, wait for a response. If you don’t get one, then ask them questions like “How do you feel?” or “How do you see the situation?” This will help them feel more comfortable discussing things with you in the long run. 

Be Consistent

Schedule regular check-ins so that giving productive feedback — either negative or positive — becomes a normal part of the weekly routine. This will leave less room for big bombs to be dropped because small issues will be alleviated as they come up. 

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