About a month ago, I started my AmeriCorps VISTA service for a non-profit in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During one of our staff meetings, we discussed how to provide feedback to peers. I felt that further discussion would be helpful because while there are business tools out there (like the sandwich method, aka acknowledge something they did well, then offer your feedback, and end with another positive thing they did), there are more ways to kindly AND effectively share feedback.
I imagine that in most workplace environments, we primarily encounter two types of scenarios: our co-worker did something that is clearly against the rules OR they did something that you feel you have a better way of doing.
Right now, I’m focusing on the second scenario. I am talking about those moments when your coworker is not breaking any rules but you feel you know of a better way to handle their situation, or have a better solution than the one that they’ve come up with on their own.
I understand that we often don’t have time or patience for a full conversation that I recommend towards the end of the blog post so I’ll cut to the chase for those moments when you need a shortened version in just TWO quick steps.
First and foremost, check your timing.
Ah, timing. Timing is everything.
If you offer feedback to someone who is flustered, overwhelmed, and is just not wanting to hear it, your feedback is likely to be ignored and maybe even intentionally not taken due to the annoyance factor of when you offered it.
That’s why it’s so important to first assess the situation - are they venting to you about something and are not looking for feedback at the moment? Then wait.
Are they overwhelmed by a moment and you adding in your say only make it harder on them? Then wait.
Think: would you want to be given constructive feedback in that moment? No? Then wait.
If what you want is for your feedback to be heard, considered, and potentially accepted, then set yourself up for success: check the timing - offer feedback when the person is in a more calm state in which they can process your words. You can even ask them, “Is this a good time to ask you if I can share some feedback?”
Second, ASK if you can offer feedback.
Remember, in this scenario, your co-worker is not breaking any rules. Just like with offering anyone advice, you first want to ask if you can. It’s very simple! Just say:
“Can I offer you some feedback on…?”
If a person says “No, thanks” that means they weren’t going to take in your feedback even if you did say it. Why waste your breath.
But if they answer, “Of course, please, I’d love to hear it” the chances of them actually hearing you is much bigger.
BONUS, see if you can offer information with your feedback
Research on how to give advice (which in my head, is in the same family as offering feedback for non-rule breaking scenarios), has shown that people like to be given information that they might not have known when making their decisions the most when it comes to receiving advice.
So if you want to point out to a coworker, “I found that working with this client, adding more numbers to the PowerPoint works really well,” try to add the information that has lead you to this discovery such as “This client has told me how much they love data so I’ve found that presenting reports with more numbers is more effective than trying to share the big picture vision with them.”
Instead of just offering feedback to use more numbers in the PowerPoint, you have now offered information to your co-worker about the client’s likes and dislikes which can help your co-worker make future decisions as well.
And for those times when you have the time and energy, ideally, here are the five steps to do before offering feedback:
STEP 1: Again, first and foremost, check your timing.
STEP 2: Then check in with how the person is feeling about whatever it is you wanted to talk to them about.
Instead of “I saw you struggling with…”
Try “I noticed that <this> happened for you. How are you feeling about that moment with… when... ?”
(If the person answers, “I’m feeling good about it.” Jump to the last question.)
STEP 3: Next question,
Is there anything that you need in moments like that? Is there anyway that we can help you?
STEP 4: Next question,
What are your thoughts and ideas about this situation?
STEP 5: Lastly, ask permission to offer your feedback.
Could I offer you some ideas I had?
I have some thoughts, would you like to hear my suggestions?
Then, of course, depending on the answer, either offer or not offer your feedback.
I have to admit, while I strive to do the ideal five steps listed above, the shorthand has also resulted in very positive results for me and has offered a kinder approach than the default “here’s what I think” statements most of us are used to saying.
And! The shortcut approach is good for friends and family as well, not just coworkers ;)
Hope this helps!
Till next time,
Wishing you ease, joy and safety.
Anna is a blog contributor, meditation leader and teacher, and photographer. You can follow her on Instagram @skillsforwellness and find her blogging away at reset brain + body. reset brain + body is a mental wellness practice where traditional talk therapy is elevated through the integration of meditation, nutrition, yoga and mindfulness. Connect with reset brain + body on Instagram & Facebook, check out the class schedule, or contact us to book an appointment.