Giving feedback with impact

Anél Jacobs
Most of us dread giving feedback – whether it’s at work, at home or any other area of our lives! In this blog post we explain what feedback is, why it is important and share some tips for giving feedback with impact.

What is feedback?

Feedback is information that is sent, or information that is received. It can also be described as conveying our reaction to something – be it performance in the workplace, something a spouse did or receiving poor service from a supplier.

Why is feedback important in workplaces?

  • Feedback is at the core of personal and professional growth. 92% of the respondents in a study done by Zenger & Folkman agreed with the statement, “Negative (redirecting) feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”
  • Feedback elevates employee engagement. A study done by OfficeVibe found that 4 out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback, and 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement.
  • Feedback is a need for employees. 65% of employees in the same OfficeVibe study said they wanted more feedback. This number increases to 72% for people under the age of 30.
  • Feedback given in a constructive manner can lower employee turnover. The OfficeVibe study found a 14.9% lower turnover rate in companies that implement regular employee feedback.
  • Feedback has psychological benefits. Feedback can “clear the air” for both the giver and receiver of feedback. It can alleviate a sense of frustration. Feedback can also provide clarity.

How do I give feedback with impact?

  • Be clear about your reason for giving feedback. Make sure that your intention is to be helpful, and not hurtful.
  • Determine the best time to give the feedback. Generally, it is best to give feedback immediately whilst your mind is fresh with your observation. The receiver will also recall the behaviour or incident in this case. Sometimes, however, it is better to delay giving feedback. This may be because of your own emotional state, the emotional state of the receiver, if you need time to investigate the situation or if you need to wait until you see additional evidence of a specific behaviour.
  • Give constructive feedback. Give people feedback that they can actually do something with. They should know what they can do to improve their performance or behaviour.
  • Give feedback directly and choose the best environment. People need to hear feedback on their behaviour directly from you, not via someone else. You do, however, need to consider whether the feedback is best given in front of others or privately. The rule of thumb is to give feedback privately whenever this is possible.
  • Describe behaviours (factual) rather than make judgements (interpretive). Focus your feedback on the behaviour observed and not on the personalities, or any form of judgement. You may, for example, interpret someone’s silence during meetings as a lack of confidence or commitment. This does not mean that your interpretation is correct. Therefore, address the disengagement, not what you think it means.
  • Describe the impact of the behaviour or performance. Help the person understand why the change is needed.
  • Give examples. This will enable the receiver to understand the feedback and to understand the complete picture. It will help them to recognise behaviour that they may be unaware of currently – remember that we all operate with “blind spots”.
  • Take ownership of your feedback. Use “I” language. Try to avoid “People say …” or “Certain team members asked me to talk to you about …”
  • Use positive word choices, stating the behaviour that you want. For example: “I would like you to contribute more to our team meetings” and not “I would like you to not be so quiet in our team meetings.”
  • Balance grace and truth in your conversation. Too much emphasis on truth, may give the conversation too harsh a tone. Too much grace, may decrease the efficacy of the conversation – the message may not get through.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” (Winston Churchill)

Enrol in the course: Feedback with impact