Giving Critical Feedback in the Business Workplace

Providing effective feedback is a challenging task that can significantly contribute to its recipient's growth and the achievement of our intended goals. This article aims to explore the reasons behind offering feedback to friends, the apprehensions associated with providing it, and strategies for delivering feedback subtly.

In essence, the purpose of offering feedback is to improve the existing situation or address issues that may have adverse effects on individuals or the overall system. Constructive feedback not only motivates work, learning, and relationship enhancement but can also lead to personal and professional development. Feedback generally falls into three categories:

  1. Appreciation
  2. Coaching
  3. Evaluation

Appreciation feedback involves positive comments and praise, serving as motivation for individuals to continue their commendable efforts. For instance, when excelling in your job, your leader may encourage you to persist and give your best.

Coaching feedback adopts a collaborative approach, functioning as a guiding tool rather than a threat. As a mentor to interns in your team, you, as a senior developer, can provide guidance on learning new tools and technologies, transferring essential domain knowledge related to the current job.

Lastly, we delve into evaluation feedback, often referred to as critical feedback. This form is employed to assess others' behaviors and actions or address ongoing issues. Critical feedback is instrumental in fostering improvement and resolving challenges within a given context.


The above picture indicates some benefits of critical feedback, which are referenced in this slide.

Even though critical feedback can yield several benefits, many people still fear giving feedback. The primary reason for this apprehension lies in the perception that providing feedback is a high-risk, low-return endeavor. This implies that the identified issue might not be significant enough to cause dissatisfaction in others, making the act of giving feedback daunting. For instance, if I inform Bob that he talks excessively during my working hours, causing distractions and missed deadlines, requesting him to refrain from disturbing me is a form of critical feedback. However, such feedback can often lead to an unfriendly response from Bob, who is my teammate or workmate.

Nevertheless, viewing the situation from a different perspective reveals that delivering effective feedback can strengthen relationships and contribute to a happier personal and professional life. In a corporate setting, it can enhance the overall performance of a working team.

To overcome the challenges associated with giving feedback, especially critical feedback, we need to learn how to provide it effectively to achieve our desired outcomes.

Feedback consists of three components:

Feedback =Observations + Perspectives (Feelings/Opinions) + Expectations for Changes

For example, an observation may be that Bob talks too much, the perspective is that I am distracted by his talkative nature, and the expectation is that he should reduce his talking time.

Understanding these components is crucial for constructing valuable feedback. Before delving into the art of giving good feedback, let's address why some comments are often deemed as bad feedback. Typically, feedback falls into two extremes:

  • Too subtle: When feedback is too soft, individuals may not feel the need to change. It might lack the necessary emphasis to convey the seriousness of the issue.
  • Too direct: On the other hand, overly direct feedback can be perceived as threatening, leading individuals to become defensive due to the inherent nature of human psychology.

From the information provided above, we can enhance three key components of feedback and strive to avoid falling into two extremes.

We can break down the process into two stages:


  1. Check our intentions: Assess whether giving critical feedback is truly necessary. Is the issue significant enough, or can we express our thoughts more softly or humorously?
  2. Check the relationships: Consider the appropriateness of providing feedback based on the level of familiarity. Is it suitable to offer comments to someone unfamiliar or not closely connected?
  3. Seek permission to discuss feedback: Before offering any comments, obtain permission. This can prevent disruptions during busy times or in inconvenient situations.
  4. Understand and clarify the problem (observations): Ensure that the problem is real and clearly defined—document it if necessary. Avoid addressing overly personal matters.

During Delivery:

  1. Apply empathetic listening: Listen to responses in an empathetic manner without personal criticism.
    • Critical listening: Focus on the consistency and accuracy of the speaker's message.
    • Empathetic listening: Understand the world from the other person's perspective.
  2. Announce your intentions out loud: Remind others of your purpose when providing feedback, and expressing niceties and politeness.
  3. Separate facts (observations) from opinions (perspectives): Avoid creating stories from observations. Ask for clarification before concluding. While assumptions can be helpful, refrain from forming judgments or creating narratives.
  4. Side with the person, not the problem: View yourself and the other person as a team tackling a common enemy (the problem). Focus on finding solutions together rather than placing blame.
  5. Separate behaviors from characters: Avoid associating individuals with problems and refrain from using labeling language, such as "she is a little aggressive."

A different perspective on delivering effective feedback is to regard it as part of the problem-solving process, encompassing the steps of identification, proposing solutions, problem resolution, and evaluation.

In conclusion, this overview encompasses different types of feedback, particularly focusing on critical feedback. Delivering effective feedback yields benefits for individuals, such as the ability to transform a challenging situation, strengthen relationships, and foster a happier life. The discussion also provides various tips and practices for constructing critical feedback that serves a positive purpose and achieves desirable results.


8-Step Problem Solving Process


https://speakerdeck.com/huyn/giving-critical-feedback-in-business-workplace https://www.csu.edu/humanresources/empdev/documents/GuidetoCoachingandFeedback.pdf

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