Recently, I was delivering a training session on the principles and skills of giving and receiving feedback to a group of people in India. During a break, one of the participants pulled me aside and asked, “How do you know when to give feedback?” With some probing, I discovered the actual question was, “How do you know when to give feedback to someone higher up than you in the organization?” This is a great question, and one that many people spend restless nights tossing and turning over. To make this easier, I want to provide you with five important questions to consider as you decide to give or not to give the feedback.
- What is the actual feedback?
As you consider the actual feedback, there are four primary categories. Check the category that best applies to your circumstance.
- Behavior – I would like to share my thoughts about a specific behavior this person exhibited.
- Performance – I would like to communicate my perspective on the outcomes and results of the person, team, or organization.
- Decision – I’d like to give feedback on a decision that was made.
- Future Direction – I would like to share my thoughts about the future direction of the team or organization.
Also, as you are considering the feedback, it is important to determine if the feedback is an opinion or a fact. Opinions and facts can get blurry sometimes, so it is important to critically evaluate the actual feedback. Opinions are based on personal preference. For example, one might provide this feedback. “I believe it is better to have meetings in the morning rather than in the afternoon.” This is an opinion. Facts have data to support the feedback. For example, “Our sales have dropped 15% in Texas and Oklahoma in the last six months.”
- How important is the feedback?
This is the next question to consider. As a starting point, do a quick 1 to 10 rating.
(Not Very Important) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Extremely Important)
The follow up question is simply, “Why did you choose this number?”
- What is the level of trust in the relationship?
Relational trust is one of the most significant aspects to evaluate when giving feedback. If there is a high level of trust, feedback is much easier to give. If trust is low, there is often a perceived fear of retribution for giving the feedback. A quick rating scale can help you clarify your thinking.
(Very Low) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 (Extremely High)
If trust is low, consider what you can do to improve the trust before providing feedback.
- What are the possible consequences if you do not give the feedback?
As you consider this question, think about the consequences from different perspectives.
- Other Teams (Departments)
- What are the possible benefits if you give the feedback?
Finally, it is important to consider the benefits of giving the feedback. Again, consider the benefits from several different perspectives.
- Other Teams (Departments)
Giving feedback often seems like a risk. It takes courage and the right words to do it well. Thinking through these five questions will help you decide whether or not to provide the feedback and to give you the confidence to offer this feedback when your answer is “yes!”