If you want the people who work for you to do a better job, you’ve got to provide them with feedback. This is more than just rattling off a hasty opinion, giving them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Providing feedback, whether to vendors or employees, is a real skill. And at times, it can be a real challenge—especially when your opinion is less than positive, and your mood is one of anger.
So how do you give good, meaningful, constructive feedback, even when you’re upset? I was thinking about this recently when I came across an article in Entrepreneur, which lists the four basic kinds of feedback. When used judiciously, each of these types of feedback can be advantageous, the article claims; working on your feedback skills means working on your understanding of these four basic feedback types.
I thought this advice was too good not to pass along, so here’s my summary of the four basic types of feedback.
- Remaining silent. Sometimes the best thing to say is, well, nothing at all! If your blood is boiling and you don’t trust yourself to be diplomatic or truly constructive, it may be best to just keep quiet. Just make sure not to overuse this approach; silence works best when you can follow it up with some measured and thoughtful feedback later on.
- Criticism. Criticism means offering comments about what the person is doing wrong—and sometimes, that’s necessary. My personal advice here is, first, to be intentional about pairing it with positive comments, too; you want to be precise in your feedback, not make the person feel like they just can’t get anything right. Also, make sure you offer criticism about actual performance; you obviously don’t want to get too personal or rude, so stick to concreate workplace examples.
- Advice. This is when you combine the positive and the negative—something like this: “I really appreciate how you’re the last one in the office every night, and your hard work does not go unnoticed. However, if you could remember to turn the lights off when you leave, that would really be great.” This way, you’re not discouraging the person from staying late. You’re actually reinforcing it, but also curbing the leaving-the-lights-on behavior.
- Reinforcement. Finally, reinforcement basically just means offering kudos for positive behavior that has no negative association. Never underestimate the impact that your words of acknowledgement and encouragement can have for employees!
Thinking in these categories—and matching each to the situation at hand—may be a good way to improve your feedback skills. Take some time to consider these four feedback types today!