In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” While the world-saving stakes of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series might be a bit more grandiose than those of our day-to-day occupations, this quote does reveal one thing our two universes have in common: Giving feedback to our peers isn’t easy.
The next time you’re having a hard time providing feedback for your coworkers, try following some of these tips.
1. Give your feedback personally
Nobody likes feeling told on. While it may be tempting to go through higher-ups or management as opposed to offering your feedback face to face, this can be counterproductive. First, your coworker may feel that you went behind their back by going to management, which can negatively impact their trust in you. In turn, this can create more challenges for projects down the road.
Second, feedback is best when it’s given by someone who knows the ins and outs of the situation. Those involved are always better equipped at finding an effective solution that works for everyone.
2. Make feedback a habit
Giving and receiving feedback among peers is part of a healthy workplace. However, if open communication is not an established part of your workplace’s culture, it can be difficult to feel comfortable offering your insights to a coworker.
While changing officewide practices is no small task, there are several ways you can do your part in normalizing feedback. For instance, try asking for some yourself.
As your coworkers grow more accustomed to giving feedback, they’ll also better understand your good intentions when they receive it. On the same note, remember that practice makes perfect. The more often you and your peers exchange feedback, the better everyone will get at sharing it.
3. Get to know your team
Just as everyone has their own preferred style of learning and working, everyone also has their preferred ways to receive feedback. For instance, some people might benefit from receiving positive feedback in addition to things they could do to improve. On the other hand, some coworkers may prefer you be upfront, honest and as specific as possible, or only focus on what needs to be changed. As said before, practice makes perfect, and the best way to learn these differences is to keep an open dialogue with your coworkers about what works best for each person.
4. Think big picture and make plans
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone ultimately shares the same goal in the feedback process: to help things improve. That being said, it can be difficult to understand how making changes to our practices can impact other projects that we might not directly see. For that reason, when you’re providing feedback to a peer, it can be helpful to explain how it relates to the bigger picture.
In addition to making it clear that your feedback is relevant, be sure to propose some actionable ideas for how your coworker can implement changes. This will not only help your coworker brainstorm solutions as they move forward, but it will also show them that you’re actually invested in making things better, and not just nitpicking.