Feedback; How not to give it!

In my experience, there are good ways to give feedback, be it positive or negative, and bad ways. Thinking back over my career, I have experienced a number of managers and colleagues that are spectacularly good at giving feedback in an entirely unhelpful way.

Aside from the managers that just ignore problems and hope they go away, which is in my mind a cardinal sin, I have experience of managers that:

  1. Thrive on giving negative feedback to the point where their team is so demotivated they move on to other jobs
  2. Criticise in public.
  3. Criticise junior members when they just haven’t got the experience required to do the job.
  4. Use a third-party as the excuse for providing negative feedback. For example, saying, “The CEO wants me to tell you to…”
  5. Leave it so long before they give feedback that it is pointless. It is often too late to fix a problem and, in the case of positive feedback, the employee feels deflated because their good work wasn’t noticed at the time.
  6. Hide behind email to deliver bad news rather than face their employees.

To my mind, open, honest and transparent communication is the keystone of good management. My advice to any manager is:

  1. Be honest with your team. If you have to deliver bad news or negative feedback, stick to the facts and explain the consequences of non-conformance.
  2. Be timely. Deliver the feedback as soon as possible.
  3. If necessary, be discrete. Staff love hearing good news and positive feedback and they love their colleagues hearing it too. However, if you are delivering bad news or negative feedback, do so in private.
  4. Maintain your authority. Blaming others for the news puts you in the position of messenger boy and weakens your authority.
  5. Be even handed. It is important to give both positive and negative feedback in the right proportions.

What are your experiences of managers giving feedback?

Do you have advice for managers when giving feedback?


About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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