An important communication skill involves giving and receiving feedback, i.e., sharing impressions and reactions of the other person's behavior in order to improve performance. At work everyone needs to receive feedback on performance. You - like everyone you work with - need to know whether or not you:
- Are meeting expectations - both your managers' and your company's.
- Are doing a good job.
- Could do a better job - and, if so, in what way.
- Are performing well enough to gain promotion.
When people do not receive feedback on performance, they have no idea whether they are doing well. As a result they can become confused, disillusioned and often de-motivated. For example, people who are not told that they are doing well soon take the view that it is pointless to work harder because it isn't recognized or there is nothing they do that is good enough, so they stop trying. People who are not told their performance needs to improve will take the view they don't need to work harder or do anything differently. Because no one has said anything they think they are doing well.
Before you can give feedback you must learn to take feedback. Think about the times you received feedback in your past career. Hopefully, most of the feedback you received was constructive, useful and not personal. Occasionally, though, you may have felt that you were on the receiving end of unjustified criticism which attacked you on a personal level.
When receiving feedback that you feel is unjustified keep your temper under control and stand up for yourself. Handle it in the same way you would if you were giving feedback: in a calm, professional manner. When feedback is both unexpected and unjustified, use the following delaying tactics to help give both you and the other person time out to consider the situation:
- Tell the person you are very surprised to hear their comments and ask if you can discuss them later, when you have had a chance to think about their comments.
- Don't jump in and deny the criticism, without considering for a moment, whether or not it might be true. And do not get angry or defensive.
- Don't immediately respond with criticisms of your own.
- Do keep calm, pause and think about what has been said.
- Do choose your words carefully.
- Let the giver know specific things about how you would like his/her reactions.
- Be sure you understand what the giver is trying to say. Because the topic centers on your own behavior, you may be thinking about the meaning of the feedback rather than hearing what was stated.
- Your own feelings may become so involved that you forget to share your reactions to the feedback of the giver. Don't let the person go off not knowing whether or not their feedback has been helpful and how you feel about their comments. The giver needs your reactions about what was helpful to improve his/her ability to give you useful feedback.
If feedback is anticipated it is easier to get yourself ready to receive the information from the giver, but if feedback comes unannounced you are likely unprepared for it. Once you understand how you have felt about receiving feedback in the past and learn to encourage it regularly from your manager, you will be able to provide feedback to your employees in a way that is meaningful to them. The way in which you, as a team leader or a manager, give feedback on performance can make or break a working relationship. If you focus on the negative aspects of performance and offer a large dose of harsh criticism the other person is likely to feel annoyed, upset and de-motivated. If, on the other hand, you fail to make your concerns clear and offer only pleasant and encouraging remarks, the other person will walk away from the meeting believing that they are doing a good job and there is no need for them to change.
Ensure that, when you give feedback on performance, it is effective, constructive and productive. Follow these simple tips: