Four Favorable Ways to Frame Peer Feedback

February 15, 2017
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Providing employee feedback effectively can be challenging, especially when conducting 360, or peer, reviews—a growing workplace trend.  Here are four ways to frame feedback they won’t forget.

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Add equal parts of positivity.  Before sharing constructive criticism, prime with positive statements.  Since positive feedback stimulates the brain’s reward centers, the recipient will be more open to negative feedback after hearing positive statements.  Beginning with negative feedback ignites the fight or flight psychological response which may ultimately shut the other person down.  Dale Carnegie’s 13th Human Relations principle, ‘Begin in a friendly way,’ underscores the importance of starting off on a positive note.  When preparing for a peer review, generate just as much positive feedback as negative to increase the likelihood that the person receiving the feedback will actually apply it.

Set a safety zone.  According to Columbia University neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner, people who receive feedback only apply it 30% of the time.  Essentially, if the person receiving feedback isn’t comfortable, the entire peer review process is unproductive.  Many organizations have begun implementing elements of civility into their 360 review process to ensure employees feel comfortable and the process is productive. 

Use specific examples.  Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”  Generally speaking, most employees have good intentions and try to do their best every day.  Hearing a statement such as, “You need to pay more attention to detail,” can come across as a low blow—unless the statement is paired with an example.  Using specific, factual examples dilutes the recipient’s doubt and defensiveness which ultimately makes him or her more amenable to constructive criticism.  Better yet, kindly recommend other approaches the person could take next time which shows that you genuinely care and want to help. 

It’s also important to note that some employees may be completely unaware of how their statements and behavior impact others.  For example, their keen and quick analytical skills may cause them to quickly deflate others’ bright ideas during meetings.  They are not intentionally trying to tear others down, rather they are simply unaware.  Sharing a few examples of how their behavior impacts others is a surefire way to help them gain awareness and begin modifying their language and actions.

Go for a growth mindset.  Psychologist Carol Dweck first coined ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  According to Dweck, with a fixed mindset, “Everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted.”  On the other hand, “The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.”  When sharing peer feedback, frame statements from a perspective of growth.  For example, put a shortcoming or failure into a growth perspective by asking the recipient what they learned from the experience and how they might do it differently next time.   

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