Biased feedback gets in the way of inclusive career progression. It’s important to know how to give it, how to receive it, and be conscientious of who you’re giving feedback to.
Your 2-minute guide to giving feedback
⏱️ Find the right physical space and time
Find a space to chat that’s quiet, private and distraction-free. NEVER give critique in public. Allow enough time for the meeting so that you are not rushed.
📝 Plan out your approach and leave nothing to chance
Set aside time to plan your approach and the outcomes you’d like to get out of your feedback conversation – and ideally a rough ‘script’ for the conversation. This may sound overkill, but it will help you land the message and drive real change.
And perhaps more importantly, the process of thinking through what you will say will actually ease your anxiety about the conversation.
Here are four things you should plan in advance:
- How you will kick off the conversation – ideally the exact words you will say, so you don’t veer off track at the start
- Your ‘EEC’ (see below) – in particular, the specific examples and effect
- 2-3 questions to understand the other person’s view, and their proposed way forward (the ‘C’ in ‘EEC’)
- Analyze your own mindset about the conversation. It’s important for you to keep an open mind and get curious about your colleague’s perspective. Be careful of assumptions or negative frame that may color how you act and react in the conversation
Start by literally saying, “Let me provide you with some feedback.”
That statement lets the other person prepare emotionally for what you’re about to say and, according to MIT Sloan School of Management lecturer Robert C. Pozen, “activates the calm, rational part of the employee’s brain rather than the defensive, emotional part.”
Most people kick off critique the wrong way, like by asking “Would you like some feedback?” This approach ignites a person’s fight-or-flight instinct: a panicked reaction like this is exactly what you don’t want.
📣 Be direct and assertive
Don’t waffle or dance around the issue with a long preamble – this will confuse and unsettle your colleague, who will sense that you have a point to make and holding back from saying it candidly. Instead, lead with the part you’re dreading.
EEC: your holistic message
EEC stands for Example, Effect, Change – and this should be the heart of your feedback message. Put these three things into a single, clear sentence that doesn’t allow for any confusion:
☑️ Example: give a specific example of behaviour or actions (NOT personality)
☑️ Effect: explain the effect caused in non-emotional terms
☑️ Change: discuss how to change the behaviour, knowledge or skill (this will involve questions and a two-way discussion – offer guidance and discuss options, but don’t impose your ideas!)
Here are some examples of good use of EEC in feedback messages:
“When you arrived late to our team meeting this week and last week, it distracted others on the team and threw off the agenda. How can we fix this?”
“When you interrupted and spoke over me in our board meeting yesterday, it made me feel you didn’t value hearing my point of view, and I wasn’t able to get my message across. Next time, could you hold back until I’ve finished to make your point?”
If you don’t regularly meet, agree on a time (or even a rough timeframe) to follow-up on the issue at hand.
It doesn’t need to be a formal meeting – a brief email or “How are you getting on with that?” is enough to show that you’re committed to helping them improve. Reiterate your support then.
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