Scripts for providing feedback
This is the third in a series on the topic of giving feedback to your manager. For most of us, this can be an intimidating conversation because no one wants to upset the person who has influence over their career.
In the first post, I provided a few reasons where demoralizing manager behavior might come from. We need to understand the root of the problem before we figure out a fix.
The second post discussed how to mentally prepare to give feedback for improvement. Based on how we approach the conversation, we can turn our manager into an ally vs. an enemy.
This week, we share some phrases and scripts for providing feedback that you can incorporate into your conversations. Most of us won’t react visibly to negative feedback in the workplace. Professional managers know to accept feedback that is presented poorly. (they react professionally and you don’t realize you pissed them off) They can also make a mental note (you are a pain in the ass) and react the next time your name is put into the hat for a new opportunity. We may think it is vindictive and unprofessional, but it is really just human nature.
Components of productive feedback
Below are 2 instances of feedback that will earn you demerits you will never hear about. State the feedback emotionally and you will commit a Career Limiting Move. Your manager will assume we are not fit for a leadership role, to lead a project, or take care of a large client.
“You are an uninspiring leader. You always interrupt me before I finish my thought!”
“Whenever I make a presentation to the group or other managers, you pick apart the presentation in front of others. You’re an ass.”
Actions are not obvious in the heat of the conversation
Most readers think the above are obvious career killers, but you would be surprised how often employees do not realize how they are presenting. Most of us are so emotionally charged we don’t realize we are making these types of statements. See the above-mentioned post on how to mentally prepare to give feedback so you don’t fall into this common career trap.
Below I explain 3 components of feedback. Include these into your conversation so you can avoid unconsciously pissing off your manager. We use the above examples and build on these exact examples. Below you see the incorporated components that will make your feedback more productive.
Include facts and skip the emotion
Instead of becoming emotional, use specific examples of behavior with observations and facts vs. personal character judgments. Think about Spock vs. Doctor McCoy. The two examples below are unemotional alternatives to the above. They don’t accuse with the word “you”.
“When I try to share an idea, I am interrupted before I finish.”
“The last time I presented to the group, my presentation was picked apart in front of everyone.”
Include the impact of the undesired behavior
This way, the guilty party has the opportunity to see the results of their actions. Below we build on our original responses. The “impact is highlighted”.
“When I try to share an idea, I am interrupted before I finish. What I hear is that my idea has already been tried, is dumb, or won’t work and that is embarrassing.”
“The last time I presented to you and the group, my presentation was picked apart in front of the group. I don’t think it is your intent, but it is embarrassing to me. As a leader of this group and we don’t want you to be seen as a bully.”
Provide examples of alternative behavior
And a little suck-up never hurts.
“When I try to share an idea, I am interrupted before I finish. What I hear is that my idea has already been tried, is dumb, or won’t work. You have a lot of experience which I would like to learn from. What would help me is if you were to hear my idea through and then ask me the probing questions. This way I can learn what questions I should consider when thinking through ideas.”
“The last time I presented to you and the group, my presentation was picked apart in front of the group. I don’t think it is your intent, but it is embarrassing to me. You are a leader of this group and I don’t want you to be seen as a bully. Next time, can we soften our questions in public and reserve the hard questions for when we are behind closed doors. I’d love to be able to rehearse these presentations with you in private before we present to everyone else.”
In addition to the specific components of feedback, there are specific ways to disarm your manager and avoid an antagonistic situation. You can be the ally and not the pain in the ass.
Feedback is not an accusation or a legal trial
Before we provide the specific feedback, let the manager know you aren’t there to accuse.
“I know it isn’t your intent, but the outcome/impact is X”
This opening statement sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. Acknowledging that the heinous act isn’t intentional can go a long way.
“We” vs. “You”
When giving feedback to your manager, making use of the word “we” indicates that you and your manager are on the same team. The use of the word “You” can insinuate that you are on opposing sides. The statement, “You did this, or you did that” is associated with finger-pointing and accusations.
“When I am interrupted” vs. “You interrupted me”.
“When we are disrespectful during presentations vs. “You are disrespectful during presentations”
Play the long game
Most of us don’t learn a lesson after a single discussion. We need reminders and we need reinforcement. How many times did our parents remind us to make our beds and wash behind our ears? How many times does your significant other remind us to take out the trash? You can teach an old dog new tricks, they are not going to be learned overnight.
Next time you are thinking about providing feedback to your manager, take a deep breath. Think of your feedback as a personal favor vs. an accusation and become the friend and not the foe.
See you at the after-party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
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