Last week during our coffee break, me and Tobias van Schneider, had a very nice discussion about feedback. Especially on how to give feedback. So I thought that it would be nice to share what we discussed, with you. Also, similar to that subject, Tobias wrote a nice article called Critique needs Context and I would suggest that you read it.
Me and Tobias, both work at Spotify and feedback is important and is a big part of our culture as a company. Feedback is one way, for every individual and the company as a whole, to improve.
So when it comes to feedback we try to follow some rules:
Negative feedback should never be insulting
It comes without saying but It's very important to never insult the other party when you are giving them feedback.
Imagine the following scenario:
You have a colleague that you think is lazy. If you confront him and tell him that he is lazy then he will probably take a defensive stand and tell you "No, I'm not lazy" or a more offensive stand and tell you something like "Your face is lazy!". In both cases he might feel insulted.
Now let's try another way:
You tell your colleague the following thing: "I feel that you don't respect the team because you don't help us with the workload".
You are now explaining how you feel. You are not insulting him, you are just communicating to him that his specific behaviour is making people feel in a specific way.
That can lead to a nice and calm discussion about the reasons why he has this specific behaviour or maybe why it might look like his is lazy while it's something else. The important part is to have a discussion going, with the goal of both parties trying to find a solution to a problem.
Ladies, next time your boyfriends don't do the dishes try this approach instead of yelling at them or telling them that they are lazy. It works, believe me.
Feedback should be specific
If you want to give positive or negative feedback then it's good to be specific. It helps the person to understand what he/she is doing right or wrong.
Consider the following situation:
You have 4 people. You tell them that they need to draw a boat. They have 20 minutes to finish the assignment and then they'll get feedback.
Now, to the first person we'll give positive but generic feedback. We can say something like this: "Awesome boat" .
To the second person we'll give positive but specific feedback. We can say "Awesome boat! Your perspective is spot on, I like the design of the boat itself and how detailed it is"
To the third person we'll give negative but generic feedback and we can say something like: "This is not a good drawing"
And finally, to the fourth person we'll give negative but specific feedback so we can say something like this: "Your perspective is wrong, the boat has no sails, no engine and it also doesn't have any windows" .
I guess by now it's pretty obvious that generic feedback doesn't really help. If the feedback is positive but generic then that person will keep on drawing the same boat over and over again because he knows that it's good. Although the person feels good, he or she might not improve.
When the feedback is negative but generic then that person will feel horrible. He or she won't know what is wrong with the drawing so there is no way to know what needs improvement.
On the other hand, by giving specific feedback, negative or positive, you are telling to that person exactly what is that he/she is doing right or wrong.
If we know what we are doing wrong, then we can improve. If we know what we are doing right then we feel good and we might even try to improve these things too.
By following those two simple rules, you shouldn't be afraid to give feedback. Especially if it is negative. And knowing that your colleagues, friends, loved ones will follow the same rules, then you shouldn't be afraid of receiving feedback either.