Of course I gave them that feedback!

Whether you’re a startup founder turned employer or an individual contributor turned manager, here’s a series from Newance on the most common ways to go from a frustrated manager to a happy best manager.

First time managers tend to go very far to extremes with feedback.

They tend to favor either blunt criticism or confusing hints.

Neither are helpful.

Harsh criticism shuts down dialogue.

It’s also more often than not a reflection of the manager’s own emotions. Sometimes our own ego is is worried about perception. Or we may be having an emotional reaction to the gravity of the mistake.

That emotion is not conducive to effective feedback. Take time to collect your thoughts if need be. Speaking too soon and from a place of anger inevitably distracts from the real message.

Confusing hints allow people to go on repeating the same mistakes.

Examples of confusing hints include such stars as:

  • the feedback sandwich (great, confusing critique, great)

  • the vague email to the whole team that comes too late

  • the company wide announcement intended only for one person in the audience

  • the side eye you give at the meeting only to never discuss again

Real feedback means getting past your own discomfort with confrontation. It means delivering clear specifics.

Do not start with the word “feedback”. It only makes everyone defensive.

Instead, state the specific behaviors.

“I have observed ____, ____, ____ at these days/times.” Give your interpretation of those behaviors. “That makes me think that you may be _____ (struggling/disconnected).”

Ask. “Is that accurate?”


Create a clear, actionable and shared next step. “Moving forward, can we agree to _______ (specific behavior change) in the future?”

Take a break if need be. “I can see this is upsetting. I’d like to give us both time to reflect and revisit this on ____(day/time).

Write it down. Even if you’re not thinking about termination, write down clear facts like who was in the conversation, what was said and any agreed upon next steps.

Documenting feedback is important for legal protection. It’s also a GREAT tool to check yourself on whether the feedback was actually delivered.

If you don’t have enough detail about what was said to make a clear note for your records, you did not deliver fair feedback and likely gave a confusing hint.

The best managers know:

I care enough about your growth to tell you the truth and figure out a better path forward.

I will make sure you’re clear on what happened from my perspective.

I will protect my legal responsibilities to this person and this company by taking and maintaining clear documented notes.

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