Whether it’s professional or personal issues with a colleague, knowing how to provide feedback to peers, without causing conflict, is a skill that some professionals may feel that they haven’t quite mastered. From below average presentations to poor workplace etiquette, each situation requires it’s own unique approach. But the cost of avoiding the issue can result in even worse long term results and ongoing issues that have a negative effect on the entire work environment.
Giving much needed feedback doesn’t have to be stressful and difficult, as long as you adhere to some of the following tips for providing feedback.
1. Be Specific
Vague or general comments are often interpreted as personal attacks or unsubstantiated accusations. That’s why you want to provide specific feedback that’s as detailed as possible. Be very descriptive and unbiased without being judgemental. Like a good scientist, provide facts in a logical, impartial fashion. If you can tie it to a specific performance metric or goal, all the better. Finally, make sure to focus on the specifics of the problem, not the person in order to appear as objective as possible.
2. Be Timely
The longer you wait to address an issue, the more it will fester and become more painful when you do decide to give feedback. While giving feedback right away might seem difficult, simply dwelling on the issue will only serve to increase your own negative feelings in the long run. Being timely is especially important to prevent gossip from getting out of hand, as other co-workers are likely noticing the issue and discussing it behind closed doors.
3. Be Appropriate
Every situation is unique, so you’ll want to understand the situation and deliver the feedback in the best possible way. For example, if someone gave a poor presentation, it’s probably a bad idea to speak out right away and belittle that person in front of everyone else. Also be appropriate with your emotional tone. Some situations may require a firm approach, but be wary about coming across as overly aggressive or critical. As a best practice, take some time to think about how exactly you’re going to deliver the message, what language you’ll use and what physical environment would be best for a positive outcome. Also consider the personality type of your colleague. You’ll want to approach narcissists and anger addicts differently than you would guilt trippers and passive aggressives, for example.
4. Be Credible
This goes back to step number one. Beyond being specific, make sure that the information you’re presenting is accurate and credible. Avoid using gossip or hearsay to back up your points, as this will only serve to alienate or antagonize. If possible, try to include multiple, objective sources so that the person doesn’t think there’s one person out to get them. Again, be as factual as possible with your critiques. Part of being credible is also making sure you document as much as possible, and frame it in terms of overall company policy and process of dealing with these issues.
5. Be Consistent
Whether you’re giving positive or negative feedback, have a consistent method to how you approach things with every individual. Over the course of time, people will realize that when you do give feedback, it’s in alignment with your approach and values, not simply a one-off personal attack for no reason. This also means highlighting the positives on a consistent basis to show that you can recognize a job well done. Be consistent also means that whenever you provide negative feedback, you frame it in terms of constructive criticism that provides a positive way to move forward for everyone involved.
6. Be a Guide to Success
The whole point of providing feedback is so the individual, and team, can be more successful as a whole. Make sure your language reflects that by trying to provide as many ways for improvement as possible. Any criticism should go hand in hand with some form of overall action for improvement and success. This is yet another reason to put some time and thought into how you’ll deliver your feedback, so you can formulate the best way to tie it into a solid pathway to success for that individual and the organization.
By using these tips for providing feedback to your peers and colleagues, you’ll position yourself not as someone who likes to tear others down, but as a problem solver who cares about the success of everyone on your team.