How To Break Down Barriers To Give More Feedback At Work

You are motivated to give more feedback to help your colleagues grow, but you often find yourself not doing it. There seem to be invisible barriers that stop you from sharing your opinions. You might be aware of the reasons, but not quite sure what the solution is.

If this sounds like the case to you, you have come to the right place. In this blog post, I will investigate the common feedback stoppers. Then, there will be tips to break down barriers and start giving more feedback.

Feedback Stoppers: What Are They?

There are external and internal factors that affect your feedback-giving behavior. The former lies in your environment: The company where you work and the group you belong to. The latter comes from within yourself, namely your personality traits and your skills.

The Lack of a Feedback Culture

Let me draw up a few scenarios for you. Your direct manager does not give feedback to you. The top managers never officially encourage sharing feedback in your company. Your colleagues hardly ask what you think about their work. Same goes with your direct reports.

If one or more of those apply to you, it is likely that your workplace lacks a strong feedback culture. Even though you feel like giving feedback, you are not sure that it is an acceptable and welcomed behavior. Your managers don’t give and support feedback. Your colleagues don’t ask you for feedback. Why should you go out there and be the odd one out?

In the deeper level, it comes to your identity. Not acting in conformity with the rest of your group risks exclusion or loss of connection. “Identity is very closely tied up to the groups we belong to,” claimed Neal Ashkanasy, a professor of management at the University of Queensland. You tend to avoid an act that might threaten your membership in your group. Therefore, you don’t want to give feedback.

Here is the tip for you: Do it anyway. Give feedback to your colleagues and be a role model. There will be no road until someone takes the first step. Why cant it be you?

If your feedback is helpful, your colleagues will appreciate it. The “if” is the game-changer here. When you want to be a role model, it is crucial to do things right. In the latter half of this article, you can find a lot more information that helps improve your feedback-giving skills.

Besides, you should communicate more with your colleagues to build a strong relationship based on trust and respect. Speak openly and transparently about work- related matters. It also helps to make small talk about personal matters now and then. Ask questions to get to know your colleagues personally.

When two people communicate regularly, feedback is less likely to come across as intrusion. The risk of connection loss is reduced and your group membership remains intact.

Last but not least, you can call for changes. Bring up your need to receive feedback with your team manager and HR Manager.

You don’t need to make a grand scheme. Simply lay out the benefits of sharing feedback. Timely compliments boost a team’s morale. Besides, corrective feedback addresses behaviors that have negative impact on the team. It calls for awareness and improvement.

Think of initiating a small survey inside and outside your team so you can gather peoples opinion on whether they would like to receive more and better feedback. Show the results to your manager or a trusted colleague in HR.

How Your Personality Traits Stop You from Giving Feedback

Your personal self stops you from giving feedback in a less obvious way. It is also more difficult to change those inner factors. However, with a good understanding of your own self, you can track down its impact on your willingness to give feedback. You then know which areas to make changes on. Moreover, I have some tips to help you along the way.

Regarding personality traits, I use Introvert vs. Extrovert and Thinking vs. Feeling as differentiating categories. They are used in the well-known Myer-Briggs Type Indicator tool for personal development. The core idea is that each category (e.g. introvert or extrovert) is represented by a group of certain personality traits. The categories give you a well-rounded picture of your behaviors and how you react to the world.

I list underneath the most common traits of each category. Pick the group you feel most familiar with and read on for the tips.

Introverts vs. Extroverts

Which one is your favorite world: The outer world or the inner world? An extrovert prefers to focus on the outer world with big groups of friends and colleagues. On the contrary, an introvert has a strong tendency to stay in a much small circle, or most of the time, just on her own. Here are more details about introverts and extroverts.

  1. Extroverts

You are more an extrovert if the following traits apply to you.

  • You gain energy from active involvement in events and a lot of different activities.
  • You are excited when you are around people.
  • You are comfortable working in groups and prefer working in a group.
  • You like moving into action swiftly and make things happen. You tend to not stop to make a plan first.

Extroverts often spring into action, which leads to spontaneous and intuitive feedback. However, you tend to be inconsistent when it comes to regular feedback. The inconsistency stands in the way of building a good habit and a strong culture of continuous feedback.

So, What Can You Do?

Firstly, change the mindset. Actively remind yourself that your colleagues can benefit more from regular feedback, compared with feedback once in a while when you feel like it.

Secondly, set up a system to implement regular feedback. Initiate recurring one-on-ones. Mark them in your calendar. Make a plan for sharing feedback. Your innate tendency might pull you toward doing feedback spontaneously, but try to push through it.

  1. Introverts

You are more an introvert if you find the following characters familiar:

  • You feel drained being around a lot of people for a long period of time.
  • You are comfortable doing things on your own or with the few people with which you feel comfortable.
  • You take time to reflect on an idea and have a tendency to not move into action quickly enough.

Introverts find frequent face-to-face feedback sessions exhausting. You tend to avoid feedback conversations when you are low in energy.

One solution could be to use a tool like Impraise to send written feedback via an app instead. Written communication is often the preferred choice of introverts. Another solution is to avoid arranging feedback sessions too close to each other. Take a break to recharge properly before you get back to it.

Besides, introverts have a tendency to procrastinate. That makes you miss the right time to give impactful feedback. Here are a few tips for procrastination:

  • Write “giving feedback” in your to-do list. Schedule a time for it if possible.
  • Break the task down into smaller steps. When you want to tell a colleague about a behavior of hers, do that in steps. Firstly, arrange a time to talk with her. Note that down in your calendar. Secondly, plan what specifically you would say. There is a simple formula for feedback to help you later on. Thirdly, show up at the arranged time and do it.
  • When you want to give feedback to a few people, do it one by one. Multitasking is not for procrastinators.

Decision-Making: Thinkers vs. Feelers

This refers to how you make decisions. Do you prioritize logical sides of all matters or do you always take people and circumstances into consideration? Do you prioritize logical sides of all matters or do you always take people and circumstances into consideration? If you pick the first option, you have the tendency of a thinker. If you say yes to the second one, you are more of a feeler.

  1. Thinkers

Here are some personality traits of thinkers:

  • You make decisions based on logic and the basic truth.
  • You tend to analyze pros and cons, which you weigh against each other so you can make the best decisions.
  • Sometimes you are considered as task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent to people and specific situations.
  • You focus mostly on continuous improvement and getting the best results.

Because you tend to see room to improve all the time, you overlook achievements. Thinkers tend to not give compliments often enough or not at all. Your logic is that people should know when they do well. There is no need for you to point that out for them.

You need to change that mindset. People might know that they have done well, but it is always encouraging to hear others talking about it. Make it your habit to give a compliment to a well-done job. Of course, it is much easier said than done when it comes to changing behavior. By being aware of the problem, you are more than halfway to solving it though.

Besides, when thinkers give feedback, you tend to focus on correction and criticism. Your focus on the facts can cause you to disregard personal feelings. That can badly affect your relationship with your colleagues. Learn to give feedback the most constructive way. You will find some tips for that later on.

  1. Feelers

Here are some personality traits of feelers:

  • You believe that you make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation.
  • You want to establish or maintain harmony in relationship and you tend to do whatever it takes to do so.
  • You find it hard to communicate the “hard truth” of situations. Sometimes you are perceived as indirect.

Feelers don’t want to give corrective feedback because you worry that it would badly affect your relationship with feedback recipients. It goes against your principles.

However, according to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, your colleagues actually want to hear the negative feedback you don’t want to give. So, maybe it’s the time to change your mindset and start giving the corrective feedback anyway.

Besides, you can learn the skills to give critical feedback that does not cause damage to the harmony of the relationship. You will find more tips on this in the coming part of this article.

The Lack of Confidence in Your Feedback-Giving Skills

Many say that they would like to give feedback, but they don’t know how to do it right.

They are not confident in their feedback-giving skills. They worry their corrective feedback will cause friction in the team or just become another matter left unsolved.

At Impraise, we find three most common concerns when it comes to giving feedback, as follows:

  1. How do you give corrective feedback that people are most likely to accept and least likely to get upset?
  2. How to give a praise that works best?
  3. What exactly should you include in your feedback?

Here is the golden rule: When giving feedback, separate praise and criticism. Don’t use the feedback sandwich. Keep your messages clear and separate to get the best out of each.

Mixing praise and criticism risks sounding insincere. Moreover, it is likely that parts of the message would go missing. In an experiment run by behavioral science professor Ayelet Fishbach of University of Chicago, most people only remember favorable comments, even if they are given both at the same time. So your colleagues are likely to miss out the information that can help them improve if you use the feedback sandwich.

Therefore, it only makes sense for me to give you separate tips for praising and giving corrective feedback. Then I will also offer a formula for feedback that can make an impact.

How to Give Corrective Feedback

First of all are some tips for corrective feedback since most people find it challenging to deliver criticism.

  • Adopt a mindset starting from WHY. Ask yourself why you want to give the feedback. Never use feedback to vent your frustration on your colleagues. Only keep reading if you want to help your colleagues grow.
  • Choose the right time: Sooner is better than later, unless strong emotion is involved.
  • Choose the right space: Do it in private, pick a place where both people can relax and feel comfortable.
  • Nurture the right behaviors, namely:Be specific in your feedback, offer suggestions for improvement, listen actively, and follow up.

Click here for more details on each tip.

How to Give Praise

Giving praise is not as challenging, but there are some tips for you to get the most out of praise:

  • Give early praise.

You should give compliments when others are doing the tasks, not just after they accomplish them. The reason for it is that early praise will help boost one’s confidence significantly.

Early praise can also serve as the signal for “you are going the right direction.” Such signals are important to keep everyone on track in long-term projects.

Besides, after receiving praise, task performers are likely to become more perceptive for future suggestions. However, when you give early praise, remember to stress what still needs to be done. Keep your colleagues focused on the final goal.

  • Tailor your compliments.

You should tailor compliments according to personality and experience of the recipients.

An introvert would prefer receiving praise in front of a group of her closest colleagues rather than the whole company of 500 almost strangers.

Moreover, a junior is more in need of early praise as a guide toward the right direction. A senior would like to see praise as appreciation of her continuous efforts. She wouldn’t need that much acknowledgement. She is experienced enough to spot good work.

How to Formulate Feedback so it Will Make an Impact

You want your feedback to make an impact, right? Here is formula for you:

Feedback = Situation + Behavior + Impact + Next

Click here to read in full about the formula.

In Brief

Feedback stoppers come from both outside and inside your own self. Gain the best understanding of the reasons so you can learn to adapt, change, and master the skills of GIVING feedback.

Photo Credit: followthethings.com via Compfight cc

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