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 seems 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 for you, you have come to the right place. This blog post will investigate the common feedback stoppers and provide tips to help break down barriers to help you start giving more feedback.

FEEDBACK STOPPERS: WHAT ARE THEY?

There are a series of external and internal factors that can affect your feedback giving behaviour. The former lies in your environment, such as 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

There are a few common scenarios when it comes to the lack of a feedback culture. For example, your direct manager may not give feedback to you, or perhaps the top managers never officially encourage sharing feedback in your company, or your colleagues hardly ask you what you think about their work. 

If one or more of these scenarios 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 whether or not it is acceptable or welcomed behaviour. If your managers don’t give and support feedback and your colleagues don’t ask you for feedback, then why should you go be the odd one out?

At a deeper level, it all comes down to your identity. Not acting in conformity with the rest of your group risks exclusion or a 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. This explains why you may tend to avoid an act that might threaten your membership in your group. Therefore, you don’t want to give feedback.

One tip is to just do it anyway. Give feedback to your colleagues and be a role model. There will be no road to feedback without someone taking the first step. Why can’t 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 will find more information to help 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 have conversations about personal matters every now and then. Ask questions to get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.

If communication is more frequent, feedback becomes 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. Think of initiating a small survey inside and outside your team to gather people’s opinions on feedback. Share the results with your manager or a trusted colleague in HR.

How your personality traits stop you from giving feedback

Your personality can often stop you from giving feedback. With a good understanding of yourself, you can track down your willingness to give feedback. This can help you understand which areas need to be addressed, and how they are causing roadblocks. 

Regarding personality traits, the "Introvert vs. Extrovert" and "Thinking vs. Feeling" can be used as differentiating categories. These 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. These categories give you a well-rounded picture of your behaviours and how you react to the world.

Listed underneath are the most common traits of each category. 

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 smaller circle, or often simply on her own. 

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 a group and prefer working in a group.

  • You like moving into action swiftly, and making things happen. 

Extroverts often spring into action, which leads to spontaneous and intuitive feedback. However, they often tend to be inconsistent when it comes to regular feedback. This 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 received only once in a while when you feel like it.

Secondly, set up a system to implement regular feedback. Initiate recurring 1-on-1s and mark them in your calendar. Your innate tendency might pull you toward doing feedback spontaneously, but try to push through it. 

2. 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 you feel comfortable with.

  • You take time to reflect on an idea and have a tendency to not move into actions quickly enough.

Introverts find frequent face-to-face feedback sessions exhausting and tend to avoid feedback conversations when experiencing low energy.

One solution could be to use Impraise to send written feedback. Written communication is often the preferred form of communication for introverts. Another solution is to avoid arranging feedback sessions too close to each other. If needed, take a break to recharge properly before you get back to another feedback session.

Another common trait of introverts is the tendency to procrastinate. This makes them miss the right time to give impactful feedback. A few tips for procrastination:

  • Put “giving feedback” on your to-do list and schedule a time for it if possible.

  • Break the task down into smaller steps. When you want to tell a colleague about a certain behaviour that you've noticed, do it in steps. First, arrange a time to talk with her and note it down in your calendar. Second, think about and jot down what you want to say. Third, show up at the arranged time and do it.

  • When you want to give feedback to multiple people, it's best do have private 1-on-1s. Multitasking is not for procrastinators.

DECISION-MAKING: THINKERS VS. FEELERS

Do you prioritize logical sides of all matters or do you always take people and circumstances into consideration or vice versa? If you pick the first option, you have the tendency of a thinker. If vice versa, you are more of a feeler.

1. Thinkers

You are a thinker if:

  • You make decisions based on logic and the basic truth.

  • You tend to analyze the 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 this mindset. People might know that they have done well, but it is always encouraging to hear others talking about it. Make it a habit to give a compliment to a well-done job.

When giving feedback, thinkers tend to focus on correction and criticism. Focus on the facts can cause a complete disregard for personal feeling. This can badly affect your relationship with your colleagues. Instead, it is important to learn to give feedback in a constructive way. 

2. Feelers

You are a feeler if:

  • 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 your relationships and you tend to do whatever it takes to do so.

  • You find it hard to communicate the “hard truth” of situations and are sometimes perceived as indirect.

Feelers don’t want to give corrective feedback because of the fear that it may affect their relationship with the feedback recipients in a negative way. 

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 corrective feedback anyway.

Besides, you can learn certain skills to help give critical feedback that does not cause damages to the harmony of the relationship. 

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 and they worry that their corrective feedback will cause friction amongst their team or just become another matter left unsolved.

At Impraise, we have found that there are three common questions that arise when it comes to giving feedback and they are:

  1. How do you give corrective feedback that people are most likely to accept and least likely to get upset?

  2. How do you give a praise that works?

  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 and moreover, it is likely that parts of the message go missing. In an experiment run by behavioral science professor Ayelet Fishbach of the University of Chicago, it was found that most people only remember favorable comments , regardless if given both at the same time. Your colleagues are likely to miss out the constructive 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. 

How to give corrective feedback

If you find delivering criticism a challenge, there are a few tips you should remember:

  • Adopt a mindset starting from WHY. Ask yourself why you want to give the feedback. Never use feedback to vent your frustration out on your colleagues. 

  • Choose the right time. Sooner is better than later, unless strong emotion is involved.

  • Choose the right space. Do it in private and pick a place where both of you can relax and feel comfortable.

  • Nurture the right behaviors. 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 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 this is that early praise will help boost one’s confidence significantly.

Early praise can also serve as a signal that indicates, “you are going the right direction”. This is important in order to keep everyone on track when working on long-term projects.

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 the type of personality and experience of the recipient.

An introvert would prefer receiving praise in front of a group of her closest colleagues or during a 1-on-1 rather than in front of the whole company.

Moreover, a junior is more in need of early praise that he or she can use as a guide toward the right direction. A senior on the other hand, would like to see praise as appreciation of his or her continuous efforts and wouldn’t need that much acknowledgement because of their experience level.

How to formulate feedback so it will make an impact

You want your feedback to make an impact, right? Here is the magic formula:

Feedback = Situation + Behavior + Impact + Next

Click here to read further about the formula.

In brief

Feedback stoppers come from factors both outside and inside your own self. Gaining an understanding of the reasons that may cause this can help you adapt, change and master the skills of GIVING feedback.

For more insights on how to develop and engage your managers download our free white paper.