Receiving and Providing Feedback

You might be at a position in your job where you can benefit from feedback from a variety of people you interact with in addition to your own self-assessment. You might want to get feedback from your direct manager, your direct reports, your peers & colleagues and others you interact with. The key is to get good quality, fairly accurate and rich feedback to help you propel your career to the next level by leveraging your strengths and deemphasizing your weaknesses. For those who work with you on a daily basis, it is reasonably easy for them to provide good feedback, but for those others who may not have visibility into your day to day workings, you may want to provide a summary of your recent key contributions, some challenges you overcame and highlight your self-assessment.

As someone who might be providing the 360 degrees feedback, you may want to watch out for the following pit falls. Note that the requestor is looking for objective rating from you and feedback to help create a realistic self-portrait from which to formulate an actionable development plan. It is very easy to take the easy path and provide “safe” feedback where you are overly complimentary or overly critical or focused on a recent success/failure or choosing “neither agree nor disagree” or choosing “not observed.” You do disservice to the recipient of your feedback by falling into these traps. For your feedback to be objective and effective you need to work a bit harder to provide feedback that helps the recipient get better. Here are a few pitfalls you might fall into if you don’t watch out.

Overly Complimentary:

Do you have a tendency to rate every question with a “agree” or “strongly agree”?

If yes, you are probably giving inaccurate feedback. Here are some questions to help:

  • Is the recipient really good at everything they do?
  • If the answer is not yes, you are being overly complimentary because no one is good at everything they do

Note that complimentary feedback is one of the most common pitfalls. This would result in inaccurate feedback and gives the recipient a false impression of their performance which is not at all helpful. Ensure you can provide specific examples to support your rating of the recipient’s behavior and take advantage of the entire rating scale to provide as accurate a feedback as you can.

Narrowly focused:

Do you find yourself too narrowly focused on just one aspect of the recipient’s job?

When a person is very strong or weak in a specific area, it is difficult to judge that person objectively in other areas. This error is often caused by our general impression of the person which can cloud your ability to be objective in other areas. We tend to rate people we like “high” across behaviors and those we don’t like “low” across behaviors. It is rare that a person would be rated “high” across a variety of behaviors. The way to avoid falling into this trap is to focus on one question at a time and not let your response on one question to influence your response to other questions. The other way to avoid this trap is to be aware of your overall opinion or relationship to the recipient and try not to let it influence your ratings.

Recent success or failure:

Do you find it hard to focus away from a recent success or failure of the recipient?

It is quite natural for you to be focused on a recent success or failure instead of over the past year so you can provide objective feedback. To avoid a distorted feedback do consider the full year performance instead of focusing on the immediate. To avoid this pitfall be aware of any recent ups or downs in the recipient’s performance and set that aside as you consider the full year performance.

Taking the middle road:

Do you find yourself playing it safe and choosing “neither agree nor disagree” for all questions?

This could be tempered by your belief that no one is performing at either extremes of the rating scale. When you fall into this trap, you will not be providing realistic feedback that represents the recipient’s actual performance. It is also possible you are not comfortable providing extreme feedback – strongly disagree or strongly agree.

Overly critical:

Do you find yourself rating every question with “disagree” or “strongly disagree”?

You may want to ask yourself if the recipient is not meeting expectations across the board. If the answer is no, then you are perhaps being overly critical and have unrealistic expectations. Check to ensure a recent performance episode is not overly influencing your assessment. Overly critical feedback can be very discouraging if it is not substantiated with specific examples. Ensure you are providing a balanced feedback that will help the recipient take specific steps to get better.

Not observed:

You can choose this option if you genuinely do not have any feedback to provide the recipient for the specific question or behavior. This is a reasonable choice if you have not observed the recipient in the specific situation or you have not seen a repeatable demonstration of the behavior of the recipient. If you are choosing this option for a majority of questions, then you may be better off declining to provide feedback because it won’t be as meaningful to the recipient.

Irrespective of whether you are the recipient or the giver of feedback, I hope you find the above tips helpful. Let me know how you benefited from this or any additional ideas you may have for giving/getting great feedback.


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