Anyone who has received feedback in their life knows that it’s not always the most fun experience in the world. In fact, it’s easy to see feedback as a personal criticism, instead of advice meant to make your work better. Even skilled professionals can get this feeling after working in fields that give constant feedback.
As someone who consistently gives feedback to the people I work with, I’m always hyper-aware of how my feedback comes across. The last thing I want is to make my employees feel as though I don’t value their work because that’s simply not true. So I’ve tried to come up with a system that ensures that I give good feedback every time, without damaging my professional relationships or making them feel attacked.
Lead With the Good
I always lead with what I liked before I start giving critiques. That starts off the interaction on a positive note, making sure that all of the feedback that follows is framed in a positive light. It can be simple and short – as long as you mean what you say. If you don’t mean your positive feedback, it does the opposite of framing your feedback in a positive light. It can cause the person that you’re working with to take your feedback the wrong way, or not apply it at all.
“One of the biggest traps when giving feedback is to forget to be specific in both what’s bad and what’s good,” says George Sink Jr., Attorney and Marketing Director at George Sink, P. A. Injury Lawyers. “If you’re not specific about what to change, then giving feedback at all is useless because your team member won’t be able to fix what you don’t like. Likewise, if you’re not specific about what you like, your team member is likely to feel as though you don’t value them, or that you’re lying about there being anything positive at all.”
Make sure you’re as specific as possible with your feedback. If you want something fixed in a specific way, make sure you outline what it is. If you really like something that they’ve done, mention what. It’ll help your feedback go over better if you can specifically tell them what you liked.
End on a Good Note
I would say making sure you end on a positive note is just as important as making sure you begin on one. If you don’t make sure that the interaction ends positively, it can taint the feedback you’ve already given – no matter how good your comments may be.
This can be as simple as re-stating that you overall like their performance or their project. You could also give one specific example of what you liked, or make some sort of general comment about the piece as a whole – whatever it takes to ensure that the interaction ends on a positive note.
Leave Yourself Open
Another important aspect of making sure that your feedback is taken well is ensuring that your worker knows they can come to you for help or questions if they feel the need. This ensures that if they are confused, they won’t struggle uselessly on their own, wasting their time and yours. You need to make sure that if someone comes to you with a question, you take the time to answer. If you say that you’re willing to help but don’t, it won’t encourage them to come to you for help. This will create a negative tone in your interactions.
This can seem like a lot to do every time you have to give someone feedback. So keep in mind as you build up a professional relationship with your workers, you can start cutting some compliments. You have to do this at the right time. But as your workers begin to understand that you value their work, you can start to dial it back without killing the impact of your criticism. They’ll know that your criticism isn’t a reflection of their work or their value. It’s simply a tool to ensure that they get the best results that they can. But this comes with trust.