Giving and Receiving Feedback





When you think about how difficult it is to be on either end of constructive feedback (both the giver and the receiver), it’s not surprising that a lot of conversations about performance improvement are ineffectual.  Instead of building a bond, they build a wall.  How do you feel when you are preparing for a constructive feedback session?  If your answer is that you fell anxious, you’re not alone.  Perhaps this is because you don’t think the individual with whom you are about to have a conversation doesn’t realize there is a problem--or, have other assumptions about the process. In an article entitled The Assumptions that Make Giving Tough Feedback Even Tougher, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman refute false assumptions with substantive research results.

False Assumption #1: The employee will be blindsided--he/she doesn't realize there is a problem.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) asked a global sample of almost 4,000 people who had received redirecting feedback if they were surprised or had not known about the problem before it was raised in a feedback session. 74% said they had known and were not surprised.  

False Assumption #2: It's best to get it over quickly.

You are both anxious.  No one likes to feel anxious.  You think the quickest and kindest way to convey your message is quickly--without a lot of dialogue.  You are also hoping you won’t have to get into a confrontation.  


In fact, this study shows that managers who take the time to listen carefully to the employee’s point of view before giving them feedback were much more amenable to what the manager had to say.  By doing this--asking a simple open-ended question like--So, in terms of your performance in the last couple of months, how do you think you are doing?--managers can tailor their feedback to the individual and the situation.  Employees are less tense and less likely to become defensive if they feel like their managers are really listening to their side of the story.  In fact, in the study, employees who felt that their managers truly listened to them rated managers high on their ability to give honest feedback.

False Assumption #3: Employees don't want constructive feedback.

Wrong again.  In an article entitled “Employees Want the Negative Feedback You Hate to Give(HBR, 1/14), a research study concludes that: a) no one likes to give negative feedback, and   b) everyone wants to hear it.  The study grouped positive and negative feedback.  More people (57%) wanted to receive constructive feedback than positive feedback (43%).  The bottom line is that respondents (92%) felt that “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.  Survey respondents overwhelmingly believe that constructive criticism is essential to career development.