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Why is feedback so hard to give?

Receiving feedback is vital for all of us. It lets us know what we are doing well. It also provides us with areas of development, improvement and stretch. Everyone we meet wants feedback, but the vast majority say they don’t get enough. So, what is stopping us from sharing feedback with our colleagues?

In this blog, we’re going to explore why it can be so hard to give constructive feedback, and how to overcome these obstacles.

Four reasons why giving feedback is hard:

1) I’m worried it might harm our relationship.

This reason often comes from managers who genuinely want to have good relationships with their colleagues, and who want to be ‘nice’. However, it is nice to give feedback. It is inconsiderate to spot an area of improvement and not tell the other person. Strong relationships are based on openness and trust. People need to trust that you will give them honest feedback. You need to be honest and open.

2) The person is generally doing a good job under lots of time pressure, I don’t want to demotivate them.

 We are increasingly hearing this reason. Teams are under increased pressure to deliver with limited resources. However, this is when feedback is needed even more. Teams need to find ways to become ever more effective and efficient. Managers should also ensure they are giving lots of affirming feedback so that people know that what they are doing well is noticed and appreciated. Spot areas that will help the work, the team, your colleagues – and give that feedback.

3) I don’t have time to think it through.

Whilst giving constructive feedback might sound like a simple task, it can be complex. Managers need to consider the potential causes of a performance issue. They need to decide what to say so the feedback is based on behaviours and results and doesn’t become personal. The conversation should be solution orientated and create an agreement about what will happen next. Take a look at this effective feedback structure and work through it to prepare your feedback.

Remember that feedback is essential. This reason is like saying “I don’t have time to support and develop my team members.” Plus, the more feedback you give, the quicker and easier you will find it. Giving feedback is one of the most important parts of your role as a manager. Make the time to do it.

4) It doesn’t feel natural.

One of the main reasons managers don’t give enough feedback is that they themselves are not receiving enough. Managers who give a lot of feedback often tell us they get a lot from their own managers, so it feels normal and natural. It’s important to build a culture of feedback, where people are used to giving and receiving feedback. Managers need to find many opportunities to give feedback, both affirming and adjusting. Managers can also ask their team members to give themselves feedback, helping them accurately assess themselves. Show how important feedback is by regularly asking your team members to give you feedback.

Don’t let these reasons hold you back

People want to receive feedback, and it is part of our role as managers to give it. The narratives we sometimes tell ourselves can be a barrier to doing this. We can navigate these feelings by reminding ourselves that feedback is essential for development, improvement and stretch. All our relationships, our work and our team will benefit from effective feedback.

What’s Next?

If you’ve found this article helpful and you would like more information, please call +44 (0)20 7978 1516 or email and speak to one of our experienced consultants.

You can also attend our Emerging Managers Programme where you will be supported to hone and develop your feedback skills. There will be lots of opportunities to practice giving and receiving feedback too.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlie Scott

Charlie specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlie worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc ten years ago, she created and...