Feedback

I just read this article at cio.com. It had some excellent advice about how to give, and how not to give, feedback to others in the workplace. Feedback is one of the most powerful tools in a manager’s toolbox. Use it early; use it often. It is far better to give regular feedback than to save it up for performance review time.

The author, Esther Derby, recommends a multi-step approach to giving feedback that is similar to that recommended by the guys over at Manager Tools, though a bit more flexible.

The steps include:

The Opening – Basically letting the person know that you want to give them some feedback and finding out if this is a good time. Of course, you should pick a time that you think is good for them before making your approach; check their calendar!

Sharing What You Observed – This is all about reporting the facts of the behavior that you are giving feedback on. Doing this without coloring it with judgment can be tricky, but is very important. At this stage it is better to say “Tom, I noticed you surfing the web during Bob’s presentation today.” than something like “You were disrespectful toward Bob this morning.” It is much easier for Tom to dispute whether or not he was being respectful than his web surfing. You really want to get agreement that the behavior occurred.

Describing the Impact – Here you might describe how others where distracted by his surfing, and that it undermines Bob and the information that was being presented. This step may not even be needed, as many people will quickly grasp the problem with their behavior. Tom might say, “Gee, I didn’t realize that other people would notice. I guess I was a bit of a distraction.” This may be as far as you need to go.

Request a Change – Tom may volunteer to change his behavior, or at least acknowledge the problem in a way that implies he will change. If he does not, then request some specific change such as leaving the laptop behind at these types of meetings.

Finally, it is worth noting that feedback can be positive as well as negative. Human nature being what it is, people tend to be more receptive to positive feedback. Use it! Reinforcing the good behaviors is just as important as changing the bad.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2007 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Worse (better?) yet, craigslist to look for a new gig!

  2. hillaryjohnson
    Posted April 25, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Of course, it could be that the meeting was so insufferably long and pointless that Bob logged onto eBay in a desperate attempt at self-preservation. It has happened to me!

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