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8 Ways Of Giving Constructive Feedback That Make An Impact

8 Ways Of Giving Constructive Feedback That Make An Impact

Everyone wants feedback at some point. It may be part of a performance assessment or can be done at an informal level as things happen. It can be a useful tool in relationships too. The problem arises when feedback is not given properly and all sorts of misunderstandings arise. But the majority (96 percent) in one survey think that even negative or redirecting feedback is helpful in getting better results. The same study revealed that 75 percent want positive feedback with helpful suggestions on improving. The main purpose is to encourage, motivate and help your employee to build skills. Feedback is a skill we all need whether we are parents, friends, partners or managers. Here are eight ways to give constructive feedback so that everybody feels happy.

1. Always ask when is a good time

The person getting the feedback also needs time to prepare and reflect on how wells/he has done. That is why delivering feedback without any warning can have negative fallout which may make it even more difficult if there are delicate issues involved. A simple question, such as ‘When would you be ready for feedback on project X?’ can allow for some mental preparation.

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2. Listen first

When you start the conversation, ask the employee for his or views on how the latest project is going. Ask about the progress and the obstacles. This feedback style has one enormous advantage. You are giving the employee first serve in the game. It also makes the whole session much less confrontational. You will be glad to know that many of the points you have jotted down are actually being mentioned. It also gives you, the manager, a chance to see some aspects which you may well have missed when preparing the session.

3. Try to be encouraging

Effective feedback will impact positively on the person’s performance and morale. All too often, both managers and employees dread giving and getting feedback and the whole process can become fraught. Look at the feedback matrix here to get some ideas. The manager/team leader thanks the employee and mentions some of the great stuff he is doing. This is really essential because it shows that his work is appreciated. This can help to drive motivation.

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4. Be specific when criticizing

At some point, you have to tell the employee where s/he has failed to meet the objectives or meet a deadline. There may be some errors in the work and also some careless oversights. The important things when giving the negative feedback are:

  • Point out clearly what is wrong. There may be negative customer feedback or errors in accounting. You need to have these at hand so that they can be shown to the employee.
  • Pause after each point so that the employee can come back with an explanation, justification, excuse, or an admittance that standards were not met.
  • Couch criticism of attitudes to work/meetings as diplomatically as possible. Rather than bluntly saying that they were not participating at all in the meeting, it may be better to say: ‘I noticed that you were using passive body language’.

5. Explain the effects of poor performance

There may be implications for customer satisfaction and services. Not following the correct procedures or overspending on costs or simply not paying enough attention to detail can all have a knock on effect on performance in the whole section. You have to make this very clear.

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6. Moving forward and improving

After the criticism, the emphasis will be very much on moving forward and setting things right.  A great way is to ask: ‘What can I do to help you get back on track with meeting deadlines?’  Then discuss what mini goals can be set so that performance improves. Be as specific as you can here. Set a date or period for a progress report so that you can both see how performance is getting better. Discuss ways together of how progress can be charted. This may be in the form of reports, graphs, data on customer satisfaction, or auditing reports.

7. Tie in the feedback with long term objectives

One great way to use feedback is to look at all the positives and the negatives and tie these in with the employee’s long term career goals. This should be a regular feature of all feedback and discussions. Tell them that once they have managed to fix X, they will be in a much better position to apply for a better position/promotion in the company. It is no accident that enlightened managers are thinking of ‘feedforward’ coaching rather than the old fashioned feedback.

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8. Always prefer face-to-face feedback, rather than email

In to-day’s digital and virtual workplace, it may be actually impossible to give face to face feedback. You may have to resort to an email. This is a minefield. In many cases, of course, written reports of performance assessments do get written but they are the result of a real human interaction and they are often an agreed version. But initial feedback by email is a different story. When you write feedback, you have to imagine the person’s reaction as s/he reads it. Trying to empathize will be a great help.

This is always why it is a good idea to write it twice. After the first draft, leave it for a day and then read it again with the intention of rewriting it. Harsh words can be like daggers and they hurt. Now you can see why managers and everybody else hates giving and getting feedback. This is one of the most sensitive areas in the workplace but if you follow the above tips, you should find it gets easier with time and experience.

Featured photo credit: Manager for a Day/FTTUB via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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