Giving and Receiving Feedback: Communication Opportunity Knocks

Giving and Receiving Feedback: Communication Opportunity Knocks

Part Three – FEEDBACK. this article is part of the series on COMMUNICATION > A Spectator Or A Contact Sport?

In the fabulous world that we have the pleasure of living in, it is a hard truth that giving feedback (unfortunately frequently experienced as  criticism ) is much easier to swallow than accepting it.

It is an astute individual who can offer feedback, but it is a strong individual who can receive words that may be difficult to listen to. Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to give negative feedback than it is to receive it?

This can be problematic for any person in a supervisory position.  As a supervisor, it is expected that giving feedback is a natural part of the job.  In the same breath, receiving feedback (especially from employees) would tend to be an activity reserved only for the few.  It is important to recognize that feedback can include both positive and negative aspects.

However, the way in which you present it can make or break your outcome.  When giving and receiving feedback, one must keep an open minded and even-keeled attitude.  Quick emotional reactions and taking comments personally have no place in this interaction.

There are a couple of important questions to consider when giving and receiving positive and negative feedback.

How do you chose to deliver it?

Positive feedback is usually well received regardless of whether you are communicating by telephone, face-to-face, or by e-mail.  Everyone loves good news.  However, face-to-face communication can add a desired personal touch.  If you have to give negative feedback, it is probably best to do it face-to-face.  This allows your employee to see your facial expression and gestures.  In a strange way, giving and receiving feedback (especially negative) is best performed as if giving bad news: face to face.  Have you ever been subject to relationship-ending news via a letter, email or telephone message?  Yes, the negative information is a big pill to swallow, but hearing it informally or through a third party tends to make the sting that much worse.

It is important to be empathetic when giving negative feedback and if possible, focus on the positive first, then give the negative feedback, and close with a positive outcome.  This is informally referred to as a “Positivity Sandwich.”  It is two slices of positive bread bracketing a negative hunk of meat.  A positive outcome would show the employee the benefits of changing the negative behavior. Feedback via a telephone call can be viewed as impersonal or cowardly, and email can leave much room for miscommunication. Whenever possible, err on the ‘face-to-face’ choice.

How do you respond to feedback?

When receiving positive feedback, celebrate yourself, regardless of the mode of communication.  Some people do themselves a disservice by focusing on the negative.  For example, if you receive good news via email you can get upset with the person, because they were not even courteous enough to call or tell you face-to-face.  However, the other option is much more uplifting –  celebrate yourself, every opportunity you get.

When receiving negative feedback, do not look at it as an obstacle or strict judgement. Look at it as an opportunity to improve.  If you have a tendency to become irritated with the messenger of negative feedback, try to distance yourself from the message.  After receiving it, take some time focusing on something else, and then focus on the message again to see if you can glean any insights.  This can help you calm down and focus on improvement.

What is your desired outcome?

Only give negative feedback when it is necessary.  People tend to make greater improvement when they are encouraged.  Prior to giving negative feedback, consider how you would like to be dealt with in the same situation.  Many supervisors do not do this because they tell themselves that they would never be in that situation.  It is always important to treat people with respect, especially when giving negative feedback.

When receiving negative feedback,  it is still important to consider your desired outcome.  Focus on the positive and progress from there.  When you do that you will have a greater opportunity to learn and maintain a positive relationship.

Think ahead and rehearse your feedback.

If you’re identifying either a High Task or a High Touch problem, be prepared to also suggest a solution. Don’t be like the ‘Seagull Manager’ who was known to swoop in, squawk, pepper everyone with one-way feedback…his way and fly off.

If you consider these stages before and after giving and receiving feedback you have the opportunity to help others grow and to improve yourself.  Remember giving and receiving feedback presents an opportunity that can build trust and elevate performance in everyone.

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