Pitfalls of Constructive Feedback
There are some things that can stand in the way of effective feedback. Some
employment atmospheres are not open, and lack of candor inhibits true
communication, especially about difficult issues. Remember, too, that criticism
hurts. Avoid these pitfalls to make your constructive feedback most effective:
- Procrastination makes the situation worse. Behavior in the
workplace does not often change and a problem usually gets worse. Waiting
until a situation is desperate is unfair, wasteful, and counterproductive.
- Timing the conversation is tricky. Constant, regular communication
is the ideal, and it is true that immediate feedback is most effective. But
do not initiate any conversation if your own emotional state affects your
objectivity or knowledge of the situation. Since the purpose of the
conversation is to change behavior, both parties must be receptive. Avoid
feedback conversations when it is particularly busy, if privacy cannot be
guaranteed, when either party is tired or upset, or if it's too late for the
conversation to have a meaningful impact.
- Conversation may seem artificial. Initially it may seem artificial
to follow a script. However, failure to act has more dangerous consequences
than the perception that it is difficult to give constructive feedback. Try
to be as conversational and natural as possible, but don't make it your
primary focus - you're there to change behavior.
- Criticism seems personal and mean-spirited. Attacking the
individual is beyond the scope of a business conversation. Besides that, it
almost guarantees that the desired behavior change will not occur
permanently and leaves you open to legitimate criticism. Still, you must
address problems caused by someone's performance. Never criticize the
individual, but rather focus on the actual behavior.
- Anger and defensive behavior are unpleasant, especially when directed
at you. When challenged, the best strategy is respectful and active
listening. Let the other person vent. As difficult as it may be to have
employees verbally attack you, the process of getting it off their chest may
actually help them be less resistant to change and, by listening carefully,
you may learn something that you need to know.
- Failing to ask the right questions can be costly. For the
constructive feedback to be effective, it must be comprehensive. You must
probe to get all of the facts and the perceptions. Plan ahead to ensure that
you cover all of the issues. Having a list in front of you will help
especially if you are sidetracked by the conversation that occurs.
- Having hidden agendas is destructive. Honest and open dialogue does
not allow for either party to play games or use the situation to further
- Taking things too personally and losing your objectivity can be
harmful. You may feel personally betrayed. If you experience this type
of emotion, it's best to resolve those issues first before confronting the
other party about work-related issues.
- Avoiding your personal opinion is a good idea. These conversations
must be business-based to be appropriate.
- Trying to do too much in one meeting is not a good idea. Focus on
one issue at a time. Addressing many concerns may overwhelm the employee and
may be too much to adequately address and resolve in one conversation.
- Failing to plan and rehearse can be costly. You can practice and
learn to give feedback well. You must practice to improve your skill level
until the complex process of putting together all of this material becomes
- Failing to document the conversation and your actions is not a good
idea. Since there is always the possibility that the conversation may be
misconstrued or may form the basis for disciplinary action at a point in the
future, you must document
that it occurred. Additionally, the documentation makes it easier to follow
up in an organized manner.