Things to avoid

Here are a few things to avoid if you want to improve your feedback to others -

Flawless judgement!

The feedback you construct is based on the judgements you make. Unfortunately perception is inherently biased towards supporting your world view. Before launching feedback upon someone try to suspend judgement by considering what other factors may have caused their behaviour.

Inaccurate attributions.

Attributions are your explanations for why something happened. They can undermine the accuracy of your feedback and can appear as though you are placing blame.

My book has more detail on attributions but simply put you cannot see everything in a situation and so notice behaviour more than environmental factors. When something goes wrong blame tends to be placed on a feature of the person, for example ‘they were lazy and that’s why the job didn’t get done’. If you like them you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, which can appear as favouritism.

Truth is any outcome is due to the dynamic interplay between personal and environmental factors.  The trick is to open your eyes and enquire before you give feedback.


Everyone interprets words differently yet we continue to be surprised when someone doesn’t ‘get’ what we mean. In feedback being specific helps and what helps
you to be specific is avoiding the use of adjectives. For example if someone is ‘cheerful’ with customers let them know the actual behaviour that conveys ‘cheerfulness’ such as smiling whilst making eye contact. That level of detail is far more valuable and useful than generalising.

‘You ought’, ‘what you should do is _____’.

As soon as those words emerge you’re giving directions, not feedback. So expect your feedback to be rejected. Change tack when you hear those words, shut up, reflect on what is causing those words to emerge, enquire about the situation or raise their awareness of what is happening in that present moment  between you both.

Expecting people to accept your feedback.

Your feedback will seem inaccurate if you’ve not managed any of the above. In addition people don’t automatically accept feedback on face value. People consider feedback and the implications of it for them and the relationship with you and the organisation.  Practical steps can help people accommodate new information, for example allow time to reflect and consider the feedback before focusing on changes.

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