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“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.”
Even when poor behavior affects our work negatively and we have a regularly established open space for criticism, we still often hold back for fear of getting a negative reaction.
Most people rather receive feedback on what they did wrong than just praise on their successes. So while we tend to categorize this as negative feedback, the communication is often viewed positively.
Often people refuse to listen to feedback because they think we have ulterior motives. So, to have people listen to our feedback, we need to establish that our interests align by asking about their interests, and actively listening to their concerns.
When people realize we’re working towards a common goal, they understand that we care about their interests and values. And consequently they’re more receptive to our input.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan to climate change deniers.
Facts are the foundation and the least controversial part of an argument. So, it’s easier to start by establishing and agreeing on the facts.
State the expectation, the facts of what happened and let the other person explain why there’s a difference. Once facts are agreed upon, explain, without piling it on, the consequences of their behavior so they understand the impact they had on the matter.
“The secret killer of innovation is shame. You can’t measure it, but it is there. Every time someone holds back on a new idea, fails to give their manager much needed feedback, and is afraid to speak up in front of a client you can be sure shame played a part. That deep fear we all have of being wrong, of being belittled and of feeling less than, is what stops us taking the very risks required to move our companies forward.”
Peter Sheahan, CEO of ChangeLabs
Corrective feedback should not shame people into compliance as it makes them more likely to disengage and withdraw from future situations. Or become defensive and blame others for their behaviors. Which is the opposite of the goal.
Alternatively, a feedback that causes guilt encourages us to compare our behavior against our own performance standards and recognize the difference. This cognitive dissonance propels us to change.
“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.”
Frank A. Clark
The goal of feedback is to elicit a behavior change. So it’s not over until you agree on what they’ll do differently next time.
Not suggesting a solution can be a good course of action to avoid a repeat of the issue. It’s their issue and they'll be more committed to a solution if it is theirs.
“The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism.”
Bad companies ignore or try to get rid of poor performing employees, never addressing the issue. Ideally, a company should hold regular discussions to handle issues and the responsibility for feedback be shared and encouraged by everyone in the organization.
Peer-provided feedback is the most effective improvement tool available to organizations. While management only sees part of an employee’s actions, peers work more closely and more often with their coworkers thus being able to provide more accurate feedback.
When most people consider giving corrective feedback, they often picture horrible confrontations. Thus they put it off until the problem becomes too big to ignore.
This avoidance normalizes poor behavior, that doesn’t usually get better on its own. And the shy critic is likely to struggle to address it the next time since they’ve previously allowed it.
Many believe that most people aren’t open to criticism, but a study indicates that most employees who rated their manager poorly also noted that he or she did not provide sufficient feedback. The study indicates a willingness to receive criticism and grow as a professional, as well as a management evaluation based on quality and quantity of corrective feedback.
People who complain about others’ general unwillingness to learn, are likely using the complaint to mask their own inability to offer worthwhile feedback.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”
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“To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”