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Top 5 feedback failures and how to fix them

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For most people, giving negative feedback is the last thing they want to do – but if you do it badly it causes pain on both sides.

The point of giving negative feedback is to create a change in behaviour to improve performance. If you fail to deliver the feedback effectively, you will fail to meet this objective.

There are five common ways managers and supervisors fail at giving negative feedback.

Know what they are and what to do to avoid them, and you can avoid the consequences of feedback failure.

1. Too fast

A lot of people just want to get the act of giving negative feedback over with as quickly as possible.

This means that you may go into the conversation unprepared, and there won’t be enough time for adequate conversation.

If you rush, the person on the receiving end may just wonder ‘what just happened?’.

If they can’t ask questions or explain the situation from their perspective, it’s far less likely they will be able to act on your feedback.

Instead:

  • Set aside adequate time to explain the feedback and your reasoning
  • Allow the other person time to give their point of view
  • Take the time to discuss and agree on what should happen instead

2. Too late

One of the guaranteed ways to diminish the impact of feedback is by waiting too long to express it.

If you hold onto criticism for too long it has a way of festering, and by the time you get around to giving it the party on the other end of it may end up bewildered or shocked by the magnitude of it.

Remember, they may be completely oblivious to the fact that they’ve done anything wrong.

READ: Timely feedback leads to better performance

Rather than providing your team member with guidance, you are more likely to create a defensive reaction.

What to do instead:

  • Give the feedback as close as possible to the time of the behaviour you’ve observed that you’d like to change

By doing this, you will have the comfort of getting it off your mind, and the other person gets feedback at a time when they can reasonably do something about the issue.

3. Too emotional

Feedback given in the heat of the moment is more than likely to fail in its objective.

You may also find you get an emotional reaction from the other person, resulting in an escalation.

Feedback given in these conditions won’t help anyone. Nor will it improve employee motivation, engagement or performance.

What to do instead:

  • Don’t be tempted to ‘fire from the hip’
  • Take time to consider all relevant factors that may have created the issue, including your part in what happened
  • Then choose a time to have the conversation when you have had time to settle your own emotions

4. Irrelevant feedback

Sometimes it’s tempting to give negative feedback to a person for a reason that’s not relevant to the situation at hand.

It might be because you’re not getting what you want from one person but rather than addressing the issue with them, you take it up with someone else.

Or it may be that you’ve chosen to focus your attention on what appears to be an easy problem rather than one that will be tougher to solve.

In both cases, the stress you’re under could cause you to stop thinking clearly, causing you to choose the wrong target for your feedback.

What to do instead:

  • Do your research
  • Reflect on your motivation
  • Is this the person who can solve the problem?

5. Useless feedback

Of all possible feedback you can give, the most useless will be feedback that doesn’t lead to the changes you’re seeking.

For feedback to be useful, it has to be within the power of the person receiving the feedback to act on it.

Can you imagine how it would make someone feel if you give them negative feedback and they can’t do anything to change the situation?

What to do instead:

  • Before giving your feedback, make sure you’re telling the right person and that they can act on it
  • Ask if they have the time, resources and training to make the changes you’re expecting?

For feedback to be successful, it must be timely, prepared and rational.

Take your time and do your research. Most of all, be prepared to be open to other interpretations of the problem.

Then you’ll have the best chance of your feedback achieving your objectives instead of failing to be heard.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

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