The thought of giving feedback to a peer often brings with it feelings of dread, panic and anxiety.
Often people feel that they can’t have a feedback conversation with another peer because they aren’t their direct manager.
So, instead, they avoid.
This can end up doing more damage in the long run both for the individual who hasn’t given the feedback as they become more resentful and frustrated, but also for the individual who hasn’t received the feedback. Because ultimately, if they don’t know, how can they fix it?
Feedback conversations don’t have to be hard.
Sure, they may feel awkward if you haven’t done it before, but if you are honest in your feelings and respectful towards the person you are giving feedback to, then in most cases you will get a fair outcome and walk away with a positive professional relationship intact.
There are numerous feedback models out there designed to provide an easy framework for people to mentally map conversations to when preparing to have these types of conversations with someone.
I like to use the ‘SAIF’ Approach when dealing with peer to peer feedback conversations.
Let’s walk through it together.
S = SITUATION
When you are giving feedback to a colleague on something specific that has impacted you (positively or negatively), ensure you make clear what the situation was. When did it happen? Who was there? What was said, written, or occurred? Be clear, and ensure you paint enough of a picture so that your colleague knows exactly what you are referring to.
E.g “Michael, on Tuesday, when we were in the budget meeting with Sam, Alex and Fiona……”
A = Action (Action)
Now that you have set the scene of when the event that you want to discuss occurred, you need to explain what the behaviour was that you did or didn’t like. Be clear here in terms of what was actually said, written, done etc so that your peer again can be very clear on what has happened.
E.g …you showed up 20 minutes late with no apology and then started interrupting everyone with questions that weren’t part of what we were talking about. I felt that you derailed the meeting by bringing up other topics that weren’t a part of the meeting agenda that we’d set.
I = IMPACT
It is then important that you explain the impact of the behaviour specific to you. This is your feedback; therefore, it is YOUR impact. You are not speaking on behalf of others (unless this has been agreed to by others, but I generally advise against this), you are speaking only on behalf of yourself. It is important to use “I” statements and not “we” statements. You are also speaking to your own feelings, so it is important that you are focusing on the problem at hand and not the person.
E.g “…..The impact this had was that I was not able to get through the agenda that was planned and had to stay back quite late that night to catch up. I then had to miss my child’s basketball finals game which made me feel quite frustrated and annoyed.
F = FORWARD
This is often the missed part in feedback conversations, particularly peer to peer ones. It is important in any conversation to close the loop and be able to move forward constructively. Hanging onto negativity after a conversation is helpful to no one, and will only go to further impact your own experience at work. Hence, it is important after you’ve said your piece, to re-state the importance of your working relationship and have something in place for you and your peer to pick up your work together again ensuring the relationship remains a positive one. Having what can be an awkward conversation like this one and then not speaking to your peer again for a few weeks can make it even more awkward than before – so rip off the band-aid and find a way to keep visible to each other.
“….I wanted to have this conversation with you and give you this feedback because I value our working relationship and I didn’t want to not be honest and open with you about how I felt after that meeting. Going forward, I’d really like to talk about some of projects that you had brought up in the meeting, it just can’t be during the budget meeting time given the tight timeframes we are all working to. Perhaps we can schedule some time specifically to talk through them next week if you’re keen?”
When it comes to feedback, timing is everything. Here are a couple of other tips to help you ensure that your peer feedback conversation goes well.
- Ensure your feedback conversation is timely – Don’t wait a month before having a conversation about something that happened that you’ve been holding onto. Make the conversation a timely one.
- Don’t catch your colleague off-guard – Timeliness is important, as is giving your colleague a heads up that you want to have a conversation with them. Walking straight up to their desk the next day and saying your piece in front of everyone isn’t going to make for the best outcome for either of you. Give them a heads up you want to talk to them and then suggest you both go for a walk or a (virtual) coffee together.
- Don’t be reactive – If something does upset you in a meeting, do not have your feedback conversation that same day with a colleague if you are angry and not in a good headspace. Give yourself time to calm down and reflect on things before you decide to progress with the conversation. You may wake up the next day and realise that what happened wasn’t actually a big deal, and as you were feeling stressed you were likely triggered by something that you usually wouldn’t be.
- Put yourself in your peers shoes – Before going to your peer and giving them feedback on something that’s upset you, be sure to put yourself in their shoes and reflect on your own behaviour. How were you showing up during that situation? Was your own behaviour worthy of some constructive feedback too? Be honest with yourself here about how you also contributed to the circumstances.
- Make it a two-way conversation. Say your piece and then be prepared for your peer to respond, as they are entitled to do. They may have questions to understand more. They may want to apologise. Or, they may even have a different view on things. Be prepared to listen to this with the intent to understand. The objective of a conversation is to walk away with a greater understanding of each other, not to just state your opinion and not listen to anything in return.
Yes, feedback conversations can feel awkward, and at times like you wish the world would just swallow you whole.
This is because it is outside of your comfort zone. But it is when we reach outside of our comfort zones that we grow and we learn as leaders and as people.
For those reading this who have aspirations of leadership positions, getting comfortable with feedback is a critical skill that you need to learn. Start now, with your peers.
If you are in a leadership position, or aspiring to be in one and need some support in selling yourself with confidence, or showing up with assertiveness, let me help you.
My “Sell yourself with Confidence” transformational 6-month coaching program is jam-packed with all the tools you need to get out of your own way and start seizing opportunities at work instead of shying away from them.
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