What kind of feedback do we need?

Feedback plays an important role in our learning process. It encourages us to identify room for improvement, which in turn helps us to strive to be better. This is true in both of our personal and professional lives.

“Progress, improvement, and success are simply not possible without feedback.” — Gallup

In the workplace context, however, giving feedback is unfortunately still seen as a challenge. Research from Gallup showed that:

  1. Only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do better work.
  2. Only 14.5% of managers strongly agree that they are effective at giving feedback.

In addition, when managers are not effective at giving feedback – or worse, they cause the recipient to have negative feelings – that can cause the employees to actively or passively look for other employment.

“4 out of 5 employees say they're actively or passively looking for other employment when the feedback leaves them with negative feelings.” — Gallup

This begs the question: what kind of feedback should we give to our employees?

One answer is feedback that’s specific and actionable.

Put it another way: feedback that’s neither specific nor actionable is not feedback.

It’s more accurate to call it a complaint. 

Some examples of a complaint:

  1. You’re not professional enough 
  2. My job is too difficult
  3. Our manager is not capable in leading our team 

If we’re not careful, a complaint can quickly become a criticism. 

The difference between a complaint and criticism has to do with the object of the characterization

A complaint is about a person's specific behavior or action. Criticism, on the other hand, is about a person's character

Complaint vs. criticism

“Complaints center on specific issues, but criticism is an ad hominem attack on the individual’s character. In effect, you are criticizing not a specific action or behavior, but the individual as a whole person.  Criticism can have devastating effects because it makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt” — The Gottman Institute

Now that we’ve seen what feedback is not, the next article will delve deeper into what feedback is, specifically we’ll examine how to come up with feedback that is specific and actionable.


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