Giving Feedback: A 5-Step Strategy
How comfortable are you with giving feedback? Feedback doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming for the other person to hear. In fact, most feedback can be delivered in 5 simple steps:
It’s important to be specific when giving feedback– this starts with clearly identifying the behavior or situation you’re referencing. Avoid vague criticisms like, “When I see your negative attitude…” or, “When I hear you addressing clients the way you do…”
The vaguer you are, the more difficult it is for the other person to understand what it is you want them to change and how. And instead of receiving your feedback as a call to improve, he/she is more likely to interpret your criticism as a personal attack. Therefore, focus on the specific behavior(s) that are causing a problem:
“When I see you frown or roll your eyes at coworkers…”
“When I hear you sound bored and disengaged with clients on the phone…”
- “…I feel Y (concerned, disappointed, surprised, etc.)…”
In the same vein, it’s important to be clear about how the other person’s actions affect you, your team, or your organization. Being honest and specific helps the other person reflect on the consequences of his/her behavior and respond more directly to your concerns.
Emotion regulation is a critical skills in all forms of communication, including giving and receiving feedback. If you feel frustrated, stressed, or worked up about the situation, take a moment to calm yourself before saying anything.
“When I see you frown or roll your eyes at coworkers, I feel disappointed…”
“When I hear you sound bored and disengaged with clients on the phone, I feel concerned…”
- “…Because it was my understanding/I thought what we agreed to was Z.”
How are your expectations not being met? Offer your point of view and explain what you think standard to be.
“When I see you frown or roll your eyes at coworkers, I feel disappointed, because we all agree to work together as a team and support each other.”
“When I hear you sound bored and disengaged with clients on the phone, I feel concerned, because our goal is to provide enthusiastic, friendly, and helpful customer service and a bored tone doesn’t convey that.”
After you share your opinion, it’s important to let the other person respond. Let him/her digest what you’ve shared and don’t interrupt. If he/she doesn’t have much to say in the moment, let the person know that your door is always open and he/she is welcome to discuss it further with you once he/she has had a chance to think and reflect.
Once you’ve had a chance to discuss the issue and are ready to move forward towards a solution, use steps 4 and 5 to clarify your agreement with the other person.
- “What I want/need from you is…”
“What I’d really appreciate is…”
“What would be very helpful to me next time is…”
Now that you’ve identified the behavior/action/situation that’s causing a problem, communicate to the other person what you’d like to see instead.
“What I need from you is to show more respect and support for your coworkers’ contributions.”
“What I’d really appreciate is if you changed your tone of voice on the phone to sound more warm and eager towards our clients.”
- Clarify your agreement. “So I can expect…”
“What I need from you is to show more respect and support for your coworkers’ contributions. Sound good?”
“What I’d really appreciate is if you changed your tone of voice on the phone to sound more warm and eager towards our clients. Is that something you can do?”
Here are a few additional examples of how you can use this five-step tool in giving feedback for other behaviors or issues:
Feedback for lateness:
“When I see you walk in 15 minutes late, I am disappointed because I thought that we agreed to be here at 1:00pm. And what I would really appreciate is for you to be on time next time. Is that something you can do?”
Feedback for workplace distractions (i.e. cell phone):
“When I see you standing around texting on your cell phone, I feel confused, because what we agreed to was that you would be calling customers at this time. And, what I need from you is to stop texting and start making phone calls. Can we agree to that?”
Feedback for teamwork:
“When we were in the meeting, I was surprised when you didn’t speak up and support my ideas. Because what we agreed to was that we would back each other up. An what I would appreciate is that next time we have a meeting that you say something in support of our project. Sound good?”
Commit to put this Five-Step Feedback Model into your communications toolkit and I guarantee it will improve your communication, as well as help others give you what you want.
Looking for additional resources? I recommend the following links, which provide additional tools and advice for giving feedback and receiving it:
- Psychology Today: How to Give and Receive Feedback
- Oxford Learning Institute: Guidelines for Giving and Receiving Feedback
- Management Help: Feedback