Why Is It So Hard to Give Hard Feedback?
Everyone thinks they’re good at receiving difficult feedback, but ask any manager and they’ll tell you that’s not the case. So, how can you set yourself up for success when giving constructive feedback? It can be difficult for supervisors, especially new managers, to know how to approach giving hard feedback. Let’s talk about why it’s so difficult to give hard feedback and what you can do about it:
People might resent you or avoid you if you give difficult feedback.
A 2016 research paper by Francesca Gino and Paul Green, Jr. from Harvard University and Bradley Staats at the University of North Carolina found that giving negative feedback can actually make people avoid you.
While this might sound a little dramatic, if we think about it, it’s not too hard to believe. People can become fearful that they will continue to receive negative feedback from you if they see you around the office. A manager might avoid giving negative feedback in fear of having to deal with these kind of negative consequences.
Pro tip: To avoid negative emotions becoming too overwhelming, focus on the message you are trying to convey. Avoid mentioning past errors and only narrow in on future improvements your employee can make.
Don’t Do This
Manager: You made a lot of mistakes last week in your presentation to investors. I think you could’ve done a better idea communicating your ideas.
Do This Instead
Manager: For your next presentation to investors, let’s focus on clarifying the message you are trying to convey. I think that will help the audience understand your goals.
Bad feedback can affect productivity.
Sometimes negative feedback can lead to employees completely shutting down. You want to give constructive feedback sparingly. A study from the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that employees reacted to a negative interaction with their boss six times more strongly than they reacted to a positive interaction with their boss. You should always give praise openly, but ensure you are being thoughtful when giving criticism.
In research reported by the Harvard Business Review, researchers found that 50% of employees intentionally decrease their productivity when they feel they have been the recipients of negative feedback. When managers are open and direct with the feedback they are giving, employees are less likely to become less productive.
Pro tip: Give constructive feedback only when necessary. When you need to give feedback, you need to be honest, direct, and specific. Don’t surprise your employee with negative feedback either. Begin your conversation with “I would like to give you some feedback” or “Can I give you some feedback?” This allows them to emotionally prepare for what you are about to say.
Harsh feedback can create bad morale on the team.
Negative feedback can harm morale when it’s given in front of a group of people. No one likes to be criticized publicly, so be aware of your comments about certain team members when in a group setting. Praise, on the other hand, should be given publicly as well as privately. Positive feedback can mean more to an individual when it’s given in front of their peers. This can always help build positive morale on a team and encourage a supportive environment.
Pro tip: Constructive feedback should always be given in private. Employees can be adversely affected when shamed in front of the team.
People might feel personally offended by your feedback.
For a lot of people, negative feedback can seem like a personal attack. This is why people most fear receiving difficult feedback. They take it too personally and sometimes obsess over it. The can hurt their overall performance and job satisfaction.
Pro tip: The “sandwich method” of giving feedback is outdated and often comes off as insincere. When giving feedback, stick to the facts. Keep your employee detached from the situation by only focusing on specific actions that need to be honed and improved. Avoid talking about personality traits or characteristics.
Don’t Do This
Manager: Your inability to listen to your peers led to a bad and unproductive meetings.
Do This Instead
Manager: In the future, interrupting your peers is not a good way to show them respect.
It can be difficult to know when to give feedback.
Creating a work environment that has healthy and active feedback loops is easier said than done. This can often lead first-time managers (and even old veterans) unsure of when to approach colleagues with constructive feedback. When you create processes that encourage feedback, the feedback giving and receiving process becomes less awkward and more widely accepted and recognized.
Pro tip: Create specific times when you are going to be giving and receiving feedback to your team members. This might be a weekly one-on-one, a feedback form, a team meeting, or office hours. Figure out what process works best for your team and set expectations that encourage the feedback giving and receiving process!
Giving and receiving feedback can be difficult, but it’s a crucial part of growing and improving as a team and company. Verb understands that you need content that helps develop your employees’ feedback giving and receiving skills.
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