There is no such thing as bad feedback

in Project HOPE4 months ago

Giving feedback

The other day, one of my team, let's call him Bob, was on a client call and was struggling to get a concise message across. I later learnt that while Bob was speaking on the call, the client had a private group chat channel open and they were making fun of Bob as he spoke. After the meeting one of the client team sent an email with some personal, almost abusive, remarks about the way Bob communicated in the meeting.

How do you think this made Bob feel? How do you think he reacted?

The importance of giving feedback

The problem in Bob's case was well known as Bob's behaviour on the call had been seen many times before. If you were in Bob's situation, wouldn't you prefer that someone took you aside and told you about how your behaviour was making other people feel? That would allow you to change your approach and hopefully not get to the stage where people are sniggering behind your back and sending rude emails.

When difficult feedback is given in a good way, it becomes constructive and can help someone to change the behaviours that are holding them back.

There is no such thing as bad feedback, just feedback given badly.

Rules for giving difficult feedback

Use a positive approach

The first thing to do is to make sure you are in a positive state of mind. If we are feeling negative ourselves and we tell the person to whom we are giving feedback, that there is something really bad about their behaviour that we need to tell them, it is unlikely to be received well. The shutters will go up.

Our intention is to help them. So let them understand we are only telling them as we sincerely want to help and that if they address this learning, they will achieve greater results.

Use your emotional intelligence

It is natural for all of us to deny something first if it is critical of ourselves. However, to change, we must first move from denial to acceptance. When you are giving feedback, you need to concentrate on those emotional cues which will help you move them forwards. You need to ensure that they understand your sincerity in helping them and help them to see a positive route forward. Rushing feedback without consciously being aware of how they are receiving the feedback will usually go wrong. Quite often it will result in them having negative feelings towards you, and you were only trying to help.

Give feedback early

As with the situation with Bob, bad behaviours are often known for a while but no one does anything about it. This will often fester until it becomes a big problem. Perhaps even resulting in the person leaving your team or organisation.

Give feedback early so that people have time to adjust before it gets to the stage that others are talking behind their back, like in Bob's situation.

Make feedback private

No one wants to be publicly humiliated. Give difficult feedback privately and be careful who you tell. If they find out you have been speaking to others too, then they will lose respect for you.

Make feedback specific

Try not to give feedback in generalised form but rather try to give specific examples. That will help them to fully understand what you are raising and will help them move from denial to acceptance.

Give feedback limited to behaviours

It is easy to talk about results as that is how problems often manifest. However, to develop, the person receiving the feedback needs to understand the things they can change that will deliver better results. We can only change our behaviours. If we behave in a better way we will achieve better results.

Do not make your feedback about their personality. This is a recipe for disaster. Besides, we are all different and actually, our diverse personalities are a strength. Again, make the feedback about their behaviours and don't make it personal.


Do give feedback when you believe there is a specific behaviour people can change that will allow them to produce better results. If feedback is given well, it can help the receiver. Imagine how better it would have been for Bob if someone had told him earlier rather than getting to the stage where people were talking behind his back.

There is no such thing as bad feedback, just feedback given badly.

How do you find giving difficult feedback to others?

Image source: Pexels


Feedbacks are very important but a lot of people feel bad when the undiluted truth is said to them either in private or public. It is advisable to use the word constructive criticism to tell people what they do that is wrong.

Hi @gbenga - I hope you are well my friend. Yes, we find it difficult to receive constructive feedback and quite often put barriers up, perhaps even blaming the person trying to help. As you say, making it constructive is the key. Thanks for your comment and have a good day.

Hello @awah
No matter how well things are said to someone, they will often be offended. Many times it has nothing to do with how it is said but rather how the other person assumes what is said.

hi @josevas217 - there is truth in what you are saying as I belive we all naturally go on the defensive when we here anything critical. They key is to make it part of our team or organisational culture and to make feedback routine. It is not easy to establish though. I was thinking to do a follow-up post on receiving feedback well.

Thanks for your comment.

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Have a nice day and sincerely yours,

Hello friend, you are right we must learn to say things, there will always be a better time or a better way to give advice or a call for attention. Of course, we must avoid it in public unless it is to praise someone. No one wants to be ridiculed in front of others.

Hi @franyeligonzalez - yes, we don't mind it in public when it is positive feedback. However, we will take offence and likely be really upset if difficult constructive feedback is done in public. Thanks for your comment.