Feedback is a very important factor in any successful workplace. When colleagues are at a level of trust where they can ask each other to look at their work in a critical way can produce better quality work from everyone. When you’re approached to offer feedback, take the responsibility seriously and be as helpful as you can. If you’re concerned with your ability to give good, productive feedback, check out some tips that can help.
Obviously, when someone approaches you for feedback on their work, they are seeking your help and therefore should understand they are going off what your schedule permits. But in the same vein, once you agree to offer feedback, you owe it to them to respond in a timely manner. Inquire what the time restraints for the project are and consider if you really can give this the attention it deserves. Sometimes you’ll have to turn them down, but don’t make a habit of it. If you do take it on, make sure they hear back from you in a reasonable time. Late feedback is no good to anyone.
Set up a feeling of safety.
Getting critical about people’s work can be a tricky situation for everyone involved. If there isn’t an established trust then the whole thing can be worthless. The one looking for feedback can feel attacked and not heed the advice given, while the one providing the feedback can feel awkward and not give a truthful assessment. Before you before, be sure you’re on the same page and any feedback given is done only as suggestions and coming from a place of good intention.
Understand other people’s styles.
Assessing someone’s work is not an easy task for some as they have trouble interpreting the work as coming from someone else. Looking at another person’s work can seem all wrong but you have to consider if it is really poor quality or if the style is just not what you’re used to. People can have very different writing styles, presenting styles and styles of a lot of work areas. When you’re assessing someone’s work, don’t look at it as if you’re writing it, but rather if they are. There may still be faults, but try to understand people have different approaches than you and are not necessarily wrong.
Suggest rather than tell.
Negatively has no place in feedback. You should never come back to the person who asked for your help with a list of things they did wrong. You come to them with suggestions. The difference between the two can be dramatic in terms of how it will be interpreted. When you tell people what’s wrong they go on the offensive and feel the need to defend their work. When you offer suggestions, they are more likely to take a step back to look at the whole work and see where your suggestion might fit in.
Yes, it can be awkward giving people feedback on their work, especially if there are large areas that you feel don’t work. You still avoid the negativity and consider how you can be helpful, but you may also take steps to ease the pain of pointing out problem areas. One way people try to achieve this is by keeping their criticisms vague. This isn’t helping anyone. Firstly, it’s letting the person know that there is indeed something wrong. Secondly, it’s not offering any help since it’s not specific about the issues. Be as specific as possible so they can more easily see what you are suggesting.
Some people think that when they are asked for feedback on work, then they need to find faults. They fear that coming back to the person without any notes makes it seem like they didn’t take it seriously. However, you should never assess someone else’s work by looking for mistakes. If you do, you’ll no doubt find some but they’ll likely be unhelpful little nitpicks that don’t really matter. Consider that feedback can be highlighting what works about the work as well.