What's Your Excuse
Feedback. Insight. Perspective.
Whatever we call it, we need it to learn & grow.
I don't know what to say
Follow the S-O-I-A model.
Describe the SITUATION (set the context), then describe the behavior you OBSERVED. Then explain what you think the IMPACT is – either positive or negative. Finally, if it is feedback for improvement, discuss ALTERNATIVE approaches.
I don't know when to say it
ASAP is almost always best. You want to provide the feedback while it is
fresh in your mind as well as the receiver’s mind. Some exceptions apply – be sensitive to other things
that are going on, for example if someone is getting ready to do a big presentation providing feedback in
the moment may throw them off. But generally, as soon as possible is best.
I don't want to hurt their feelings
Everyone reacts to feedback differently. However, most people, if
they know your intent is to help them and you have a foundation of trust, they will recognize the spirit
in which the feedback is given and will value the feedback. They may still be disappointed or even hurt,
but will value your honesty and willingness to provide the feedback. It is much worse to withhold
feedback that could be helpful to them.
I don't want to discourage them
Check your motive – why are you giving them the feedback? If it is anything other than providing feedback in the spirit of true helpfulness, consider not giving them feedback. If you are still concerned about discouraging them, think about the amount of feedback they have been given, has there been ample time for them to apply the feedback or are they being inundated with too much feedback. If so, you may want to consider the timing of your feedback.
I don't want to embarrass them
Feedback for improvement should almost always be done in private.
And for some people, they would prefer even positive feedback to be done in private – each person is
different. Be sensitive to the situation, but don’t shy away from providing the feedback. If it is a highly
personal feedback, make sure to they understand your sincere interest in helping them by sharing the
I am afraid they will get emotional
Some people get more emotional than others. For some, timing has an impact on their emotional reaction to feedback. Emotions are okay. Stick to your observations and state the impact. Don’t try to interpret their behavior. Allow the person to digest the feedback and if necessary, take a break and come back to the discussion at another time. If you are providing the feedback in the spirit of helpfulness, you should not feel guilty for “making them get emotional.”
I doubt they will listen anyway
Some people are better than others at receiving feedback. Over time, if a person is resistant to feedback several things are likely to happen. First, people will stop giving them feedback. Because of the lack of feedback, it will be difficult for the person to reach their potential and will ultimately hurt the organization (lack of innovation, poorer performance, leadership flaws, etc.) as well as the individual (stifled personal growth) – a no-win situation. This is why giving and receiving feedback is so critical to our organizations growth objectives.
I am afraid they will quit
We all need to be learners, and one excellent way to learn and grow is
through feedback. Assuming that the feedback is powerful and delivered appropriately, even if the person struggles with the feedback at first, hopefully they will see the overall benefit to them. It is important that your true intention is to help them become their best. If they perceive anything other than this, it may entice them to leave the organization.
I am afraid they will get angry or yell
You can’t control peoples’ reaction to feedback. But you can remind them that you are trying to help them not hurt them. However, when a person is angry they likely can’t process what you are saying, so it is best to suggest that you continue the conversation at a
later time. If you are the manager of the person, do not give up. In the end, it is still your responsibility to provide feedback and they will need to learn to be professional about it.