Giving corrective feedback is one of the most crucial yet most difficult things you can do as a manager- make sure you're getting it right.

Telling someone that they’re doing something wrong is tough- plain and simple. It’s uncomfortable, it can potentially harm your relationship with that person, and frankly, most of us aren’t good at giving or receiving it. This video addresses the correct way to go about giving corrective feedback when it’s required.

Giving feedback is one of the most critical, yet most under-developed interpersonal skills. As a manager, it’s part of your job to correct poor performance when you see it, and corrective feedback is crucial to building a healthy, productive work relationship. However, giving feedback in a way that’s fair and effective is a tricky skill to master. Think about a time where you received corrective feedback from a manager, or perhaps a time when you had to give some. Did you get upset? Did the other person get defensive? In most cases, the answer is yes.

While the feedback itself is important, it’s the way you give feedback that really matters. If the other person doesn’t hear it or accept it, then it isn’t going to be effective, and it will feed like an attack. Here are 4 steps to effectively giving corrective feedback:

  1. Before you give any feedback, ask questions. The purpose of asking questions first is to get the other person’s perspective prior to giving our own. You don’t want to give feedback before you know the whole story.
  2. If corrective feedback is warranted, then begin by describing the behavior and what you’ve actually observed. Instead of telling someone “You have a bad attitude,” focus on what they’ve actually done. For instance, try “Your last submitted report had a number of errors on it.” Ideally, you want the person to accept the feedback that you’re giving without getting defensive.
  3. Use an ‘I’ message to describe your feelings, rather than a ‘You’ message. This means that you want to put the focus on yourself, rather than just on the other person. Rather than saying “You drive me nuts by showing up late all the time,” try “I feel frustrated when you don’t come in on time.” The ‘I’ message seems much less like an attack, and more like you’re expressing your emotions. It’s also been found that ‘I’ statements are psychologically easier to hear.
  4. Describe the impact of the behavior. If your goal is to ultimately alter the person’s future behavior, then you need to give them a reason to change. One of the best ways to do this is to clearly illustrate the consequences of their actions. Keeping with the example from #3, you may want to tell an employee who is frequently late that by arriving late to work, they cause client wait times to go up, which hurts the company’s reputation and ability to gain repeat business. A good rule of thumb for describing behavioral impact is through a When You I Because statement, which is an easy-to-remember statement that you can use when giving corrective feedback. For example, When you arrive late to work feel frustrated because it increases client wait times and harms our reputation. These sort of statements are not only easier to give, but they’re thorough, force you to think through the entire issue, and are easier for the receiver to hear and digest.

Giving feedback is never going to be easy, but by following the above 4 steps, you can ensure that it will be easierboth on you and the recipient. Make sure you fully understand the situation, can substantiate your claims with evidence, and phrase your feedback in a way that feels constructive rather than like an attack. Watch the video now for details on how to effectively give corrective feedback.