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Don'ts for Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback is essential to helping others learn and grow. However, many of us don’t do it well – or we don’t do it at all. In my opinion, the most important thing is to establish a foundation where the other individual feels that you care about them. If feedback doesn’t come from a place of caring, concern, and wanting the other person to be successful, the conversation isn’t likely to go well.

In this post, we will explore 3 manager types and some feedback traps that aren't conducive to effective feedback that I share in my Boss to Coach workshops.

3 Manager Types That Suck at Feedback

1. The People-Pleaser Manager You may envision Michael Scott from one of my favorite shows, The Office. Here is a quote from Michael: “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy, both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” Michael was amusing as a boss but not very adept at giving constructive feedback or honestly any other area of management. He was an HR person’s nightmare (poor Toby) but certainly would have been entertaining to work with.

2. The Overly Aggressive Manager

For this example, let’s look at Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. She is portrayed as mean, cutthroat, and cold. A quote from her is, “I had hope but you ended up disappointing me more than any of the silly girls.” Miranda’s feedback obviously didn’t come from a place of caring and concern.

3. The Laissez Faire Manager

In this case, I’ll use Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation as my example. Ron was Leslie Knope’s deadpan superior. He said, “I once worked with a man for three years and never got to know his name. Best friend I ever had.” Ron clearly didn’t care about building relationships with others. He was quite disengaged and was just checking off the days until he could retire.

Ineffective Feedback Traps

In addition to these management styles that aren’t conducive to being a good “feedback giver”, I wanted to call out a few ineffective feedback traps.

  • The sandwich method – This involves starting the conversation by sharing a positive, hitting them with the developmental opportunity, and then ending with a positive. This was formerly taught as a good strategy. Why shouldn’t you use this approach? It makes them feel better by starting and ending with a positive. I don’t recommend this for a couple of reasons. It dilutes the feedback, and the next time you are providing positive feedback, they will be waiting for the punch.

  • Using BUT - I don’t like big BUTs, and I cannot lie. When you include “but”, it negates that first part of what you have shared. Usually, this starts with something like, “You did a great job with that project overall, BUT you missed an important component of implementation.” See how that works? Not effective.

  • Sugarcoating - If you go overboard with sugarcoating your feedback, it will be watered down, and the message will likely not be received.

  • Addressing too many items at one time - You should stick to one piece of feedback at a time to make it most value-added. More than one will make it hard for the other person to process.

I hope this is helpful in determining what NOT to do. Stay tuned next week for a model to help you give feedback well!

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