10 Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback

(Taken from: CCL’s publication excerpts, “10 Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback,”  Feedback That Works: How to Build and Deliver Your Message, CCL Press, 2000,  Sloan R. Weitzel)

There’s good reason that you aren’t eager about giving feedback to the people you work with:  It’s hard to do. You might say something you’ll regret later. People are too emotional.

All of these reasons top the list among leaders, managers and executives on why they don’t think they give good, consistent feedback.  Steer clear of these 10 blunders when giving feedback:

Mistake #1: The feedback judges individuals, not actions   Putting feedback in judgmental terms puts people on the defensive. And you’ve sent the message that you know what is right or wrong.

Mistake #2:  The feedback is too vague. Steer clear of generalized, cliche’ catch phrases. If you want to really encourage someone to repeat productive behavior, you have to let them know what they did so they can keep doing it.

Mistake #3: The feedback speaks for others. Stick with the information that you know. Dragging a third party’s name into the mix only confuses the recipient, who then wonders why others are talking about them behind their back.

Mistake #4: Negative feedback gets sandwiched between positive messages. It may seem like a good idea to unburden the blow of negative comments with positive ones, but the recipient is smart enough to read between the lines, too.

Mistake #5: The feedback is exaggerated with generalities. Avoid those two little words, “always” and “never.” It puts people on the defensive because there is usually that one time…

Mistake #6: The feedback psychoanalyzes the motives behind behavior. It could be a divorce, resentment over a co-worker’s advancement, or burnout, but whatever you think you know about someone’s intents and motives is probably dead wrong.

Mistake #7: The feedback goes on too long. Know when to stop. People need time to process the information they have received.

Mistake #8: The feedback contains an implied threat. Telling someone their job is in jeopardy doesn’t reinforce good behavior or illustrate bad behavior.  It only creates animosity.

Mistake #9: The feedback uses inappropriate humor. You might use sarcasm as a substitute for feedback, especially if you are uncomfortable giving it in the first place. Keep the snide comments to yourself.

Mistake #10: The feedback is a question, not a statement. Phrasing feedback as a question is too indirect to be effective. And it may even be interpreted as sarcastic. Really?

Learning from your mistakes is important. Have you encountered any of these common mistakes during your career?


About Leading Effectively Staff

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of executive education that accelerates strategy and business results by unlocking the leadership potential of individuals and organizations. Founded in 1970, CCL offers an array of research-based programs, products and services for leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world's Top 10 providers of executive education by Bloomberg BusinessWeek and the Financial Times, CCL is headquartered in Greensboro, NC, with offices in Colorado Springs, CO; San Diego, CA; Brussels; Moscow; Singapore; New Delhi - NCR, India and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Its work is supported by 500 faculty members and staff.
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4 Responses to 10 Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback

  1. avatar Emmanuel sayianka says:

    Thats a great piece of information!I have been handling EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK @YV4P hence the information will be a good Supplement

  2. This is a great set of guidelines to help feedback be more effective. I’d like to add one suggestion that I’ve found to be a great aid to providing feedback to others. It is to ask the recipient if now is a “safe” time to provide feedback to them.

    Given the many stresses that we all face everyday, sometimes the most well-intentioned and helpful feedback could land on the person like a ton of bricks. It has been my experience that asking this simple question helps to build trust and to reinforce your concern for them as a person.

    In the cases where a recipient has said that the current time wasn’t “safe” for them, they’ve shared that they’re in a much better state of mind to receive the feedback after that particular moment/situation has passed.

  3. avatar Ted Nicholas says:

    Very useful piece. Another tip that works is to frame the feedback “if you do … you can/will get even better results next time”

  4. Pingback: 10 Common Mistakes in Giving Feedback | Leading Effectively: Official Blog of the Center for Creative Leadership | kwalitisme

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