Giving feedback is both an enriching and challenging activity. When carried out correctly and respectfully, feedback can improve an individual's performance by providing guidance and direction. However, not everyone responds to feedback in the same way, and sometimes criticism can lead to hostility and other unproductive behaviours. The tips below are designed to provide you with the tools for giving constructive feedback that is respectful of everyone's needs.
Giving Feedback in Canada
Canada is a multicultural and egalitarian society which means that there's a lot of cultural diversity in the workplace. Therefore, it's essential to consider that not everyone will want feedback in the same way; more on this later.
Generally speaking, Canada favours indirect feedback where managers provide both positive and negative feedback simultaneously. For instance, you may critique the wordiness of your peer's presentation while also complimenting them on their inclusion of valuable graphics. This approach favours the well-being of the workplace environment as a whole over efficient delivery. It also means you should listen mindfully when given feedback to reflect on the entire message rather than your peer's first comment. There is an unspoken expectation in the Canadian workplace that you always think critically about the feedback you receive.
For someone new to this feedback style, a cultural mentor may be an essential resource for you. They can help model culturally appropriate feedback and develop a style that feels more authentic to you. While the indirect approach is favoured generally, it's incredibly flexible and often compliments other feedback styles more often than you'd expect.
When to Give Feedback?
Receiving feedback can be stressful for all parties involved, but it doesn't have to be. A common mistake is only to give feedback monthly or even annually. Not only does this create a disconnect with your staff or peers, but it can often mean that problems that should have been addressed earlier continue to snowball into more significant issues.
Instead, it would be best to give feedback as soon as you see something that may have significant consequences. It isn't always a problem that needs addressing. Often positive feedback can ensure that employees double down on an area of strength that will significantly enhance their productivity. In addition, giving feedback frequently will normalize the process, which can decrease fear and uncertainty surrounding feedback. Many find that no feedback is more stressful than a constructive comment.
Before giving feedback, be sure to ask for permission. It's critical to recognize that not everyone will be in the right headspace to receive feedback at all times properly. Rather than risking your personal or professional relationship with an individual, try to wait for the right opportunity when they can be fully receptive to you. Asking the question allows the individual to choose if the time is right for them and makes them feel more comfortable while you provide your comments. Before asking, it may be helpful to give context to your intended feedback so it can overcome any preconceived biases. For instance, they may be expecting a scathing review when you want to compliment a positive behaviour in reality.
When giving constructive feedback, try to find a private space for discussion. This way, the individual receiving feedback is more receptive and less self-conscious.
How to Give Feedback?
Feedback doesn't have to be a prerecorded monologue. Some of the best feedback is initiated by inviting the individual to evaluate their performance. You can do it through open-ended questions like "what areas are you hoping to improve on?" or "what would you do differently next time?" It will quickly reveal their level of self-awareness and allows the individual to take responsibility for their performance. It also ensures that you aren't providing redundant feedback nor making incorrect assumptions about the employee.
When giving feedback, you don't want it to feel too personal. Focus on an individual's skills or process instead of criticizing their character. Try to provide more objective feedback that avoids using "you" statements like "you need to work on how you communicate." Instead, address their actions or your experience. For the previous example, you might say something like: "I found the latest report had too many errors."
On the other hand, you don't want to give feedback that is so objective it feels impersonal. Instead, you want your comments to address the individual you're critiquing directly. It commonly occurs when trying to provide a critique at a group level. For example, you might say to a group, "Some of you need to improve your negotiation skills." While this does avoid singling out individuals, which is something to avoid, it's entirely irrelevant for a portion of the group. Individual performance improves overall group performance, so addressing those who need improvement directly and privately would be more effective.
Another tip is to try to be clear and specific when giving feedback. It means including detailed examples of the problem and the resulting consequences. If your feedback is vague and nonspecific, then a person will have difficulty implementing it, or their interpretation may lead to further issues. Instead, try to focus on measurable qualities, often known as KPIs or Key Performance Indicators. KPIs provide visible targets that team members can work towards.
Sometimes it may be helpful to write your feedback out ahead of time. This way, you can assess if your message is clear and practical. While an in-person meeting is generally ideal, written feedback is still a precious tool.
As with any necessary communication, it's vital to assess whether your message has been understood. Be sure to ask confirming questions and even get the individual to repeat what they heard to ensure that there hasn't been any misunderstanding. Again, it is imperative when giving indirect feedback as the message may get lost in the nuance.
Sandwich Method & Plussing
The compliment sandwich method is often utilized when giving corrective feedback. This method consists of complimenting an individual, then corrective feedback, followed by a final compliment. This way, your feedback is sandwiched between two compliments. It eases the individual into the feedback process and helps to reinforce the idea that constructive criticism is a positive process.
A common mistake is to view the sandwich method to diffuse the sting of negative criticism. While in reality, the process is designed to force you to carefully consider both the positive and negative aspects of a team member's performance. The positive qualities surrounding the corrective feedback should be as equally helpful and supportive as your criticism so that the process doesn't feel condescending. With this approach, employees feel more appreciated, and they can use this positive work environment for efficiency improvement.
An alternative method for providing feedback that Pixar Studios created is called "plussing." In plussing, feedback must also offer a possible solution to correct any issues rather than simply criticizing. This method was inspired by the "Yes and…" mantra of improvisation, where actors only add to each other's ideas and never take them away. But, again, the emphasis is on using feedback to encourage others to grow and not shut them down.
The Sandwich and Plussing methods are many approaches to feedback that all work together to successfully address the Canadian workplace's diverse needs. However, you'll find that some methods are more effective than others, so be sure to experiment with different approaches to discover what is best for each individual.
How to get ready?
While giving or receiving feedback can be very helpful, it's also very challenging. However, if you carefully consider the unique Canadian working environment and ask plenty of questions to ensure both parties are ready for feedback, you'll find the process is much easier. Remember to avoid using "you" statements and even practice new methods of criticism like the sandwich or plussing methods. Always remember that feedback isn't a reductive process. It's about strengthening each other. Set clear expectations, and don't forget to express how much you appreciate what they're doing right.
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