When trying to make your co-workers better, and to realize their areas, where they can grow and improve, we need to provide constructive feedback. These tough conversations are even harder to have as multiple crises and their side effects wear on. To top it all off, a change in venue from in-person to remote, removes the nuance that can help soften the blow of bad news.
Taking a few steps to be more strategic about how you deliver constructive feedback, can help prevent negativity bias and a digital venue from distorting how your employees receive your feedback. Here are the five steps:
- Start by asking questions. Begin your constructive feedback conversation by asking the other person about their perspective. You might ask, “What did you think of that report?” or even simpler, “How did that go?” You want to learn about their experience and what they think of their work.
- Offer appreciation before you offer criticism. In their ongoing research, Leslie John, Alison Wood Brooks, and Jaewon Yoon at Harvard Business School have found through manipulating the order in which participants receive feedback that individuals are more receptive to constructive criticism if they’re first told what specifically they did well.
- State your good intentions. John has also found that explicitly stating your good intentions goes a long way toward improving how the other person hears bad news. Try, “I’m in your corner,” or “I know you’re trying to improve your writing and I want to help you get there,”
- Clarify and contrast. Helene Lollis, the CEO of Pathbuilders, a firm that develops woman leaders, finds that contrasting statements can bring clarity. After you’ve raised your concern or suggestion, follow it with, “What I mean is X. What I don’t mean is Y.”
- Have the other person state their key takeaways. Save time at the end of the conversation to ask, “What are your top three takeaways?” It may feel redundant, but you’ll learn if they’re taking a negative nosedive, and if so, you can reframe the message.
Huston, T. (2021, January). Giving Critical Feedback Is Even Harder Remotely. Harvard Business Review.