Delivering Feedback

I was reading Constraints on giving feedback and it struck the note. I too have been in the same situation:

Second, I see folks reject feedback because they don’t like how it was delivered. Essentially, they become feedback lawyers who fixate on the weakness in how feedback was delivered rather than trying to understand the content within the feedback itself. This lets someone feel justified in ignoring feedback because it wasn’t properly formatted, but doesn’t accomplish anything other than discouraging future feedback. Again, if we look at the impact of this behavior, it’s just shifting the demand curve on the Econ 101 chart down, once again resulting in less feedback.

My response in the past was to back-off and restrain my feedback. It aligns well with Will’s view on the topic. I didn’t feel encouraged to provide more of it. With more years under my belt, I see these situations differently.

The higher the person I am giving my feedback to is, the higher my expectations about their response to it are. A senior individual needs to be capable of extracting the feedback’s value - no matter how small it is - from its outer shell. Being the outer shell its deliverance alongside any noise. A bad deliverance can be a good exercise, for when one cannot do anything about it. It’s ok to say to a direct manager that the deliverance is bad, and that arrangements should be made. It’s harder when you are two or three levels away from whoever gave it to you - or when there’s no direct line at all.

My current approach is simple. Ask what good deliverance looks like for the same kind of feedback. If the person cannot articulate it, then the issue is not the delivery, but the feedback itself. When the problem is resisting feedback, that’s a whole different can of worms.