How to Give Good Feedback at Work Without Feeling Awkward

How to Give Good Feedback at Work Without Feeling Awkward

There is something you can do right now that will better your workplace. It takes very little effort, costs nothing, and will not only improve the work of your colleagues but also make them feel good. It will likely make you feel good too. All you have to do is genuinely thank, appreciate, recognise, or acknowledge the contributions of your colleagues. To put it more simply, you should learn to give others good feedback.

It’s a meaningful action anyone can take to make a measurable, positive impact on the work environment — and it can also produce higher quality work. These researchers found that when members of teams believe their colleagues respect and appreciate them, they perform their work tasks better. Mutual respect and appreciation are the foundation of a healthy and productive work environment.

The problem is that people don’t do it often enough; when I ask teams why they don’t recognise each other much, I hear a variety of reasons. A few mention they don’t know what to say but some feel awkward, worried others will think they want something or have a hidden agenda. This is often the case with teams that don’t already have a habit of appreciating each other. They’re sceptical when they hear something positive. Some even see positive feedback as a sign of weakness. The good news is it is easy to reverse. The more genuine, positive feedback coworkers receive, the more likely they are to accept it. This often inspires people to give it to others, and so on.

Also, don’t worry if you work at an organisation where positive feedback is absent. Raise this topic with like-minded people. Band together and begin with each other, then challenge each other to branch out to others. Start small and gradually expand your circle of people you recognise and acknowledge. It likely will catch on.

Here are a few tips to begin.

Give positive feedback that is genuine

Authenticity is key. Don’t go around spraying flattery everywhere and saying, “You’re awesome!” or “Great work everybody!” That will annoy people, and appreciation without context and specificity can make you look naïve.

Also, good feedback is more meaningful when a person doesn’t receive it too often, so find the right cadence. It might depend on the work and the relationship: Giving your boss twice weekly good feedback will make you look like a suck-up, but doing it once a month might be really meaningful to them. (Being a manager can feel thankless. Bosses like appreciation too.) Find the right balance so that when you do give feedback, the person receiving it accepts it as genuinely as you gave it.

Be specific with your feedback

When a colleague delivers a clear and concise presentation by telling stories and using good visuals, don’t say “Great presentation!” This is a nicety and the problem with niceties is that they’re just…nice. You want the person to know exactly what you thought about their work so they know what to replicate. Also, general compliments from a colleague are easily brushed off. If you want to get the big benefits of good feedback at work, be specific.

Use a framework

Some share they feel awkward giving good feedback because they don’t know what to say or how to say it. Practicing with a framework is helpful. Try this:

  • Describe what happened: “Hey Melissa, I appreciated your comment today about how to rethink our customer interactions.”
  • Describe the impact: “It opened my eyes to a new issue that needs to be explored further.”
  • Say thank-you: “Thanks for speaking up. It was great to get your perspective.”

If this approach is new to you, post the format on a sticky note to conveniently remind yourself of what to say and how to say it. Don’t hesitate to prepare your feedback in advance so that when the time comes, you’re ready. Also, the more you use the framework, the less you’ll rely on notes.

Starting today, make it your mission to be the best at giving good feedback. Be genuine, be specific, and use a framework to ensure your words are meaningful.

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