THE RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT KEEPING IT TO
A MAXIMUM OF TWO TO FOUR DEVELOPMENTAL
RECOMMENDATIONS REDUCES THE CHANCE
THAT INDIVIDUALS WILL BE OVERWHELMED
WITH AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT.
participant? How do we make sure they understand the results in
as much depth as they want, and at the same time feel motivated
to do something meaningful with the results?
Anecdotal advice is readily available on how to provide feed-back.
We may have also figured out what has worked in the past,
and what has not, based on our own experience. Although these
sources of information are useful, evidence-based recommenda-tions
for feedback can give us confidence in the feedback processes
we implement, and increase the chances that the dreaded feedback
conversation can have a positive outcome. We want to reduce the
defensiveness that receiving feedback can often lead to, increase
acceptance and promote taking action based on the results (i.e.,
setting goals). Whether you are a manager or a coach (or both),
here are a number of recommendations you can follow to improve
the quality of the feedback you provide, drawing from the latest re-search
in the field.
BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE PROCESS
People are more likely to accept feedback if it is clear how conclu-sions
were made. A recent study found that individuals reacted
more positively to feedback when they received information on
the process and procedures used to determine their ratings. This
means clarifying what the assessments you used were designed to
measure, and explaining how to interpret the results and what the
results mean for the individual. Further, being open and upfront
about how the assessment results will be worked into the overall
developmental planning process will also increase the transparen-cy
of your feedback session.
MAKE THE FEEDBACK SPECIFIC AND
Providing specific feedback on observed behaviours as opposed
to what this implies about one’s traits is said to reduce the ego-defensiveness
that can surface when one receives feedback.
Providing examples of a type of behaviour can also help persuade
the individual to work on a key area. It is difficult to ignore feed-back
when it is objective and evidence-based. The implication
is that instead of providing feedback such as, “You seem to be a
person who crumbles under pressure,” it is more effective to give
specific examples of a time when the person managed their stress
ineffectively, and to discuss what strategies could be put in place
next time to avoid this pattern in the future.
Although research suggests that specific behavioural feedback
leads to better subsequent performance, it can also reduce the
chances that people will try to apply their feedback to novel set-tings
or situations. Therefore, during the feedback conversation
it is important to emphasize the applicability of feedback from
the assessment to multiple areas of one’s performance on the job.
For example, if results from the 360 noted a lack of assertiveness
amongst one’s peers, it is possible that a lack of assertiveness may
also present itself in client interactions.
PROVIDE MORE POSITIVE THAN
The feedback that is most difficult to give is the negative kind – do
we really look forward to the performance review with our most
low-performing employee? It’s tempting to go into a laundry list
of the areas that the person needs to improve so that they know
where to change. Unfortunately, researchers have found that even
if feedback is specific and behaviourally focused, when there is a
lot of negative feedback, people are likely to react poorly. So, what
can be done about it?
The evidence points to emphasizing a greater amount of pos-itive
relative to negative feedback during these conversations.
Research suggests that individuals who react more positively to
developmental feedback are more likely to engage in develop-mental
activities, and less likely to experience negative emotions.
Importantly, positive feedback leads to positive reactions and
greater feedback acceptance. The positive reactions that people
experience from receiving positive feedback can be leveraged to
facilitate improvement in areas of weakness. For example, re-searchers
have found that individuals who are given positive
feedback are more willing to devote attention towards accepting
One possible exception to this recommendation is when an
employee is derailing. It is likely that a struggling employee has ig-nored
and defended themselves against negative feedback in the
past. Providing too much positive feedback could do them a dis-service
– giving them the impression that there is little wrong,
when in fact, they need to make drastic improvements to keep
36 ❚ JULY/AUGUST 2014 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL