Giving feedback is an essential part of performance management. Pulling a person up on poor behaviour is difficult. Timing is essential. Feedback should be given soon after the behaviour is observed. But not immediately if emotions are high. Constructive feedback can influence a person to change their behaviour. Careless feedback can destroy trust.
A colleague was called out of a meeting and given feedback about one of his team. The allegation was quite serious. He immediately called the individual to a meeting. She tried to explain what had happened. But the manager interrupted. He told her the situation was very serious and he was going to speak to HR.
Unfortunately the feedback was grossly inaccurate. The accused was actually the victim of the behaviour. The manager hadn’t taken time to check the facts. He was very stressed that day with meetings overrunning and a major deadline at risk . He was usually very calm and composed. He got caught in the drama of the situation and reacted.
So the next time you have to give feedback, pause and ask yourself the following questions.
1. Did you observe the behaviour?
Feedback is more effective if it comes direct from the individual who observed and was impacted by the behaviour. If you weren’t present check the facts thoroughly. Allow the recipient of the feedback the right to reply. They also are entitled to know where the feedback originated.
2. Have you considered other factors that may have contributed?
Sometimes situational factors contribute to the behaviour in significant ways. These may be work or personal factors. This does not mean that the behaviour is ok or you should not give feedback. But it may change how you approach the dialogue with the other person. You may decide to listen, understand and question more.
3. Are you in the right frame of mind?
Managers often find it frustrating that behaviour does not meet their expectations. Giving feedback can provide an opportunity to offload some of that frustration. It might feel good at the time. But the situation can become destructive if the person giving the feedback loses their composure.
4. Have you planned what you will say?
Jot down some notes or run the conversation through in your head. This helps in two ways. Rehearsing difficult conversations reduces the stress response. Planning what you will say will highlight any gaps in your understanding or facts.
5. Would you give the feedback to anybody who behaved that way?
For a variety of reasons, we have different relationships with different colleagues. Bias influences our perception and judgement. This question allows us to consider if we are applying the same standards to everybody or being too harsh.
Do you agree? Do you consider any other factors?