Berger Leadership Blog

Aug 14, 2015

Safe to Give Feedback?

Dollarphotoclub_64372652How is negative feedback given and/or received in your organization? Have you given the practice any thought? I read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review about how to give and receive negative feedback.

The story centered around a manager named Rich, who, before asking his employees to fill out a feedback survey, predicted that he might get “dinged” for being “a control freak.” But when he got back feedback that said just that, he was devastated.

HBR concluded that it wasn’t so much the comments – which were expected – as whether or not everyone involved felt “safe.”

The article pointed out that intent matters: because Rich “believed his colleagues were trying to take him down,” he was more hurt. “Before sharing feedback, ensure that others understand your positive intentions in sharing it,” it suggests.

At the same time, HBR said it’s up to Rich to “be curious”: “Act like a detective pursuing a mystery called ‘I wonder why they feel that way?’” Trying to understand others’ points of view is always helpful when it comes to evaluating criticism.

Is your institution a safe place to offer feedback? What can you do to make it safer? It’s something I ask myself as we deal with our own internal communications, and I work to keep improving the process.