That Dreaded Feedback

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The end of the year usually finds us waiting in trepidation for the required and timed ‘Feedback’ interview.

When someone says to you, “I just want to give you some feedback”, we often cringe and expect negative remarks on how we could have done something better than we did.

We regularly need to give ‘feedback’ to staff and employees yet this word can be frightening, negative and makes us assume the worst. It makes us feel like we are being judged and none of us wants judgement.

I suggest changing the word. Instead of ‘feedback’ what if we reworded it to ‘Reflection’.

So if the boss called us in to reflect on something that occurred or to provide the yearly reflection, how would that feel? Research tells me we feel less confronted, less likely to be judged and have negative statements made. It, in fact, can enable us to be open, wait for remarks, expect some good comments and be far more open to receiving the discussion we must have.

I also suggest to management to always use the sandwich technique if you must deliver analysis on the person’s performance or have an issue to discuss that needs to be amended. The sandwich technique goes like this.

Welcome them into the office, ensure they feel comfortable, talk about something light hearted and make a positive comment about something you noticed or was mentioned in regards to their work performance. You can always find a positive, even if it how wonderful they are always so punctual or greet customers or colleagues with a warm smile and hello.

This is the bottom layer of the sandwich, the base of which we need to build on. Spend some time discussing this area of their performance. After a little time, you can move onto any comments that may need considering. When we move on it isn’t an attack on their person, work or into their jugular, it is subtle, empathic and respectful. We always need to ensure the person feels valued and appreciated in their work role.

Language such as “I wanted to mention something I noticed that we could discuss” makes the conversation inclusive instead of hierarchical. When we use inclusive language, it opens up our mind and invites us also to comment and discuss. When we feel dictated to or criticised, we go into defensive mode and often shut down our logic because we are fighting for our self-esteem and justifying something we may have done. No one likes to be criticised.

When then we speak to a colleague about discussing something, this is where the sandwich filling is used. The discussion is held with observations; asking not accusing. We need to check-in that the information we have or what we saw was indeed accurate. There may have been part of the story missing or a part of what we witnessed was missed. Therefore, always checking in is safe and less confronting.

Once we receive all necessary information and feel the situation could have been managed differently then, we ask the other person if they feel another way may have been more advantageous. It may be for a variety of reasons being; the customer may have been angry or upset, the sale may have proceeded without issues, the colleague may have needed some time to process, etc. We agree with the comments for the solution the employee comes up with and we can agree and add another way that it may also be able to be managed next time. Instead of telling them their way is wrong or not as good as your way, simply plant the seed, allow them to feel heard and add another way to also manage a future situation. The employee will usually gravitate to your decision while owning part of it as they were recognised and heard.

We then follow this discussion with the top of the sandwich and thank the employee for their candour, honesty and insights. This allows the person to feel recognised, appreciated and valued. This is character building and self-confidence building, and we all know how great and empowered we feel from this. The employee feels valued and can take on a more personal connection with their job and the business. A win-win for them and us.

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