No matter what level you’re at in a company, you’re inevitably going to need to provide feedback sooner or later. Whether it’s your boss, coworkers, or subordinates, someone’s going to slack or make a mistake. When that time comes, you can give feedback confidently with these nine tips.

1. Provide Warning

No matter how good your intentions, some people just don’t respond well to criticism. Be mindful of this. It’s always best to ask prior to providing feedback. This will mentally prepare the other person for any criticism they’re about to receive. Take them aside to avoid embarrassing them in front of other people, which will immediately put them on the defensive.

2. Be Timely

If you’ve ever housebroken a pet, you’re aware feedback has to be provided immediately. If you wait too long to explain to someone they’re doing something wrong, you’ll be fighting a habit rather than a mistake. Habits are hard to break, so don’t delay in correcting unproductive behaviors.

3. Focus on Processes

Never point out flaws in a person – this will be taken as a personal attack. The reason people believe in concepts like luck and fate is because they have trouble internalizing mistakes. You’re not about to change this, no matter how much of a people person you think you are. Instead, point out a flawed process they’re following. This allows them the out of not knowing the correct procedure and making a change.

4. Be Straightforward

Don’t dance around a subject. People prefer a direct criticism (“Your breath stinks.”) over a veiled one (“Have you tried this new gum?”). You may think you’re being polite, but you’re just making things worse. Don’t waste people’s time beating around the bush; come out and say specifically what was done wrong.

5. Explain the Why

Don’t just tell someone to start doing something another way – that won’t stick. Explain to them how their incorrect procedure affects the full process. Let them know why they need to change what they’re doing. Hearing that auditors are looking for certain things or that more money can be made by doing things a certain way makes more of an impact than just telling them “because I said so.”

6. Suggest Alternatives

There’s always more than one way to do things. Don’t just tell someone the way they’re doing things won’t work – give them options for different ways that will work. Find a compromise between what they’re doing and what you want them to do. It helps to prepare what you want to say in advance so you don’t find yourself stuck.

7. Be Gracious

Always focus on the positives. For every negative point you have to cover with the person, counter it by mentioning something positive. Just make sure you keep a 1:1 ratio or you run the risk of your actual criticism being lost. People only remember at most 70% of what they hear, so balancing the positive and negative is essential to ensure you get your point across without sugarcoating it or being mean.

8. Avoid Shaming or Threatening

The more you rule with an iron fist, the more likely people are to rebel. Look at the world around you: oppressed people always rise against their rulers, and those dictators have weapons. If you’re working in a cubicle, you’re certainly not going to scare anyone. Instead you’ll likely end up in trouble yourself. Treat people with respect, and they’ll respect you back. Treat them like they’re beneath you, and they’ll either leave or work against you.

9. Solicit Feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. When giving feedback, encourage feedback on how you’re doing. You may learn something new about yourself, or you may learn the person’s true feelings. By encouraging open communication, you’re leaving room for everyone to improve, which is great for business in the long run.

Featured photo credit: DT via pixabay.com

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