he successes of businessmen and women, entrepreneurs, and leaders relies on their ability to communicate effectively, from giving feedback to an underperforming employee to receiving feedback from dissatisfied customers. Effective communication does not happen organically. With proper timing, a clear tone, and an understanding mentality, your relationships will flourish, leading you to connect with more people...and in a professional atmosphere, networking is vital.
In your mind, picture an everyday occurrence, like eating your last meal, working on your computer, or talking with a friend. Do you see yourself from your own perspective in the first person point of view or do you see yourself from a third person point of view? Regardless of the situation, it is important to try to alternate between different perspectives for personal reflection. We can use personal reflection as a means of understanding our own actions, words, and thoughts to generate the most realistic feelings when communicating effectively.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Creating a comfortable workplace
- How to give feedback in a constructive manner
- How to absorb feedback in a constructive manner
How to Dish it (feedback) Out
Bosses and managers give out the brunt of professional feedback to their employees, but a portion is given by coworkers and leaders. To provide the most useful and constructive feedback in a professional (or personal) relationship, be sure to use the following rules as a guide to make yourself heard and better yet, understood.
Before you begin your discussion, meeting, or feedback session with your employee or coworker, make your recipient as comfortable as you can. Inquiring about what they think of the work they have provided or their thoughts on the attitude of the workplace can give you a better understanding of their perspective on themselves and their peers. If your recipient is comfortable with you, they will most likely trust you more, and therefore see your feedback as constructive.
Especially in a professional setting, gaining immediate trust can be difficult. Eye contact, body language, confidence, comfort of environment, familiarity, and gut instinct can gauge a person’s trust in another. Since many of these assets are controllable (except gut instinct which is natural and immediately established), you, as a leader, can create a respectful and influential relationship with your employees or coworkers.
Establishing a clear baseline of trust through respective boundaries, having your recipient’s –and the company’s– best interest at heart, and delivering helpful and relevant feedback can cause your recipient to find you trustworthy and reliable, and therefore embrace your feedback and use it.
Gage the Environment
Be mindful of the professional setting. If your professional relationships are more intimate than other places of work, take advantage of the direct approach. With this flexibility, communication is more clear and respect is higher (Do you share small talk with your boss in the breakroom or is the only time you see them during routine meetings?)
On the receiving end, understand that your recipient may take the news personally, know your audience and plan out your direction accordingly.
Balance the Air
Honesty is the most important tool for a thriving work environment. It can be difficult to balance the tone of your words. As you are laying out the feedback, note some achievements or positives your recipient has done. For example, if you think that an employee should speak up more and be a leader in meetings, consider telling them that you are proud of the work they present when in meetings and you think speaking up would present that work more effectively to other workers. This is not to say that you should sugar coat your suggestions. Feedback will only be understood if it is clear and honest and misleading information can cause your recipient to become confused–balance is key.
When providing feedback, your intent is (hopefully) to improve the company, work environment, or professional achievement of that person. A blanket statement such as “You are not performing in the workplace with much ambition” does not clarify the acts the person is doing wrong nor is it helpful to development. Giving your recipient specifics of areas they can improve in and tips on how to develop will keep communication clear.
Do Not Personalize
Avoid attaching meaning to these actions without hearing if straight from the horse’s mouth (your recipient). By avoiding personalization, you can better separate the person from their actions (intent plays a role here). On the receiving end, understand that your recipient may take the news personally, know your audience and plan out your direction. Avoid making broad claims that generalize the recipient’s actions. By focusing on the issue at hand, a clear mutual understanding is more likely to occur.
People listen and understand in different ways. What you think is clear may not be understood on the receiving end. Encourage your recipient to ask questions for clarification to your criticisms, be open and available with feedback, and answer genuinely. Prepare your answer accordingly tailored to the subject and the person at hand. Their questions and feedback will improve your communication and help to gauge your recipient’s personality (mature, leader, reflective, defensive).
Although easier said than done, avoid prolonging the problem at hand. This can create a hostile work environment between employees and between levels of power. Try to speak with your recipient sooner than later while their work is fresh in their mind-- and yours. This will avoid generalization and instead, help to pinpoint relevant concerns.
Especially in a more intimate work setting, establishing routine feedback meetings can create a more open and comfortable environment (you can also gauge who has concerns versus who is simply complaining). This will establish clear expectations and better preparation on both ends.
How to Take it
You may have thick skin but a bad experience with a difficult boss may have ruined your perspective on constructive criticism. Here are a few things to keep in mind when receiving, processing, and applying professional feedback.
Receiving feedback can be difficult or extremely useful, depending on the amount of humility you carry with yourself. Viewing feedback as an opportunity to grow or strengthen relationships shows your patron that you are mature and responsible.
Be Mindful of the Environment
Professional atmospheres differ with intimacy. Gauging the attitude of workplace relationships and applying relevant communication tactics is key to realistic responses. Receive information in a neutral state and respond neither overly enthusiastically nor reject the information you are given--Remind yourself to stay poised
Keep it Confidential
Again, I encourage you to gauge your environment. It is important to ask those who you trust most their perspective and opinions on your situations. But be mindful that sharing your professional discussions with coworkers can look more like gossip than seeking perspective. Know your audience--Can you trust your recipient to give your helpful information? Can you trust them to keep your information confidential?
Your perspective and your boss’ perspective are teetering on two ends of a seesaw. Remember that you are in control of your responses and actions, and not others’. It is important to take control of your feelings, and ask questions that are beneficial to your and your recipient’s understanding. From a leadership position, your patron will see you as a person they can be honest with in the future without worrying that you might take it personally and respond defensively.
Be Curious, Not Judgemental
As your patron is laying out this information to you, it is important to find clarification to establish clear expectations (ask questions!). After the fact, remember that your boss covered this with you because they (most likely) care to see you grow and achieve bigger and better things-- if they didn't they would have just fired you…
Sit with the information you were given. Self-reflection is important to progression in both personal and professional environments. Percolating the information available to you and viewing yourself from a third person point of view gives you a fresh perspective on what you may look and sound like on the receiving end. Avoid negatively mulling over feedback. Focus on what you can control and apply it!
Apply What You Now Know
Apply the “drip” method of application when adopting feedback. If your boss tells you that you should engage with your peers more often, tag along with your coworkers for lunch one time a week and progressively spend more time engaging with others (while still establishing boundaries) is a healthy process of applying the “drip method.” Remember: practice makes perfect, and practice takes a lot of time and patience.
Constructive feedback can be a wonderful tool in your personal and professional life. While it may be difficult and uncomfortable to lay the hard truth out on a picnic blanket, it may be even harder to pick that information up from the blanket, take it with you, and metabolize it, and vice versa. The most important thing: Don’t take it personally! Whether effective or ineffective feedback, self reflection is an important tool for a happy life full of prosperous relationships.