Watch Yourself When Giving Feedback

Constructive criticism often gets a bad rap, but it's critical in the workplace. Without it, we can't improve. It's important for leaders to know there's a right and wrong way to give feedback. It's just as important for leaders to time the feedback right and strike a balance between being compassionate and direct.

Rebecca Muller, an assistant editor at Thrive Global, visited with Ronald Riggio, Ph.D., a leadership and organizational psychology professor, to learn some ways leaders can provide feedback that's both helpful and constructive. We share four common mistakes people often make when giving feedback in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

1. Making the feedback one-sided. Miller learned from Dr. Riggio that constructive criticism should be seen as a conversation instead of viewing the dialogue as single-sided. Making feedback a two-way discussion can help alleviate negative feelings and show your colleague you're compassionate about what they have to say. "Listen to the employee's perspective and suggest that it is valid," Dr. Riggio suggests. "Turn it into collaborative problem-solving."

2. Not offering constructive advice. Too often, we bring up a problem that we notice without offering a solution, and Dr. Riggio says this mistake is most common in the workplace. "I think the biggest mistake that supervisors make when providing feedback is being critical without providing constructive advice on how to improve," he says. Instead of shaming someone for what they did wrong, try to provide your input in a way that's direct and specific. Give your perspective about what could be improved.

3. Character-generalizing. In addition to how we communicate our feedback, Dr. Riggio says a concept called "person perception" can hold us back from truly believing the person can improve. "When evaluating someone's performance, we over-attribute failure to something about the person without taking into account the situational factors that influence performance," he explains. Instead of generalizing, take a step back and look at what happened in the situation. Was the initial expectation unrealistic? Did someone else slip up? Did the employee have the necessary tools to accomplish the job or reach the goal?

4. Excessive sugarcoating. Muller learned that many leaders swear by the "compliment sandwich" concept, where they wrap their criticism in two positive traits, in hopes of not insulting the individual they're talking to. But according to Riggio, this common tactic can also lead to excessive sugarcoating, which may end up burying the message in a pile of compliments. Instead, it's better to get straight to the point in a way that's both direct and helpful. Dr. Riggio says the goal is to give performance feedback in a direct, but constructive and supportive way.

The next time you have to offer up constructive feedback, use the tips above to speak up in a way that's direct and helpful. Your team will be better for it.

Source: Rebecca Muller is an assistant editor at Thrive Global. Her previous work experience includes roles in editorial and digital journalism.

filed under June 2019
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