Giving Effective Negative Feedback

Dilbert: published Nov. 30, 1996

As previously discussed, giving feedback is important, and often makes the difference between mediocre teams and individuals, and those which excel. However, you don’t want to do it like Asok in the comic above. With a small amount of practice, it isn’t difficult to greatly improve your stills in this area. It even comes in a neat 3-step package which is easy to remember.

  1. When you [do or don’t do something] it [has this effect].
  2. Ask them for their thoughts on this, and how they might do it differently in future. Don’t be afraid of silence.
  3. Agree on what will be done differently in future.

The keys here are simple. State the action in clear terms of the negative effect it has. Then ask them what they think, and give them time to suggest ways we can improve in future. Usually they will suggest something very similar to what you were looking for, and it is far more effective if it was their idea. Finally, restate and summarize what you agreed to.

While this doesn’t always work, it usually works very well. Give it a try, you will likely be pleased with the results.

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