Have you ever been frustrated by someone who was given feedback, agreed to change and then just carried on with their old behaviour? This is a situation which occurs all too often. Yes, it is frustrating to find that your feedback message hasn’t been actioned. But before you dismiss the person who received your feedback, think about whether you did everything possible to deliver a clear feedback message. Here are some things to consider.

1. Check that your message was clear

Giving feedback isn’t easy, because no-one wants to hurt another person’s feelings. Because of this, many people water down their performance feedback messages. This action is well intended. But it can lead to confusion. In fact, if you dilute your message too much, the other person might not even realise you have been giving them feedback. Here are some examples of feedback messages which are so nice they lose their meaning:

  • Have you ever thought of _______?
  • It would be good if ____________
  • You might need to change ______________
  • Sally always ______________

Before deciding that someone is a ‘difficult person’ and has ignored your feedback, reflect on whether you sent a vague or confusing message. Then get ready to repeat your feedback with clarity and assertiveness. That’s how to give feedback in a way which makes sense to the recipient.

2. Meet and repeat

If your feedback didn’t get through the first time, it’s time to repeat it. Set up a meeting with the seemingly difficult person. This time, focus on sending a clear, unambiguous feedback message. Make sure you include a:

  • Clear description of what the other person is currently saying or doing
  • Rationale for why that behaviour needs to change
  • Explanation of what the other person can do differently

For example ‘This week you’ve arrived fifteen minutes late for each of your shifts on the service desk. This meant your colleagues had to continue staffing the desk, when they were rostered to other tasks. How can you make sure you start your shifts punctually in future?