Feedback Nightmare: What if I Say the Wrong Thing?


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So many managers and teams are anxious about feedback conversations, and for good reason. It is a legitimate concern to be worried about “What if I say the wrong thing?” or, “What if they take it badly and things blow up, or I make things worse?”

In this video, Galen unpacks two key factors that you can put in place that negate the need to say the exact, perfect thing and to make conversations around feedback less stressful and more effective for everyone.

1. The right environment.

The most effective environments for giving and receiving feedback fill the requirements for a culture of feedback. Make sure you can answer yes to these questions:

  • Do we have a culture of giving feedback where we know collectively that it is okay and normal to give feedback to each other, in an appropriate, timely manner?

  • Do we have a foundation of trust where people know that feedback comes from a place of care and genuine investment in each other’s success?

It’s good practice to be constantly working toward this type of environment with your org, but this doesn’t happen overnight, especially if that’s not the current norm. One way to help build that environment and shift mindsets and behavior is with the language we use (read on).

2. How the conversation is framed.

It’s important to frame the conversation in a way that puts the recipient in a receptive place, that reinforces our care and investment in them, and depending on the context, asks to make sure they’re open to receiving feedback. This means framing the conversation something to the effect of, “I care about you, and I’m invested in your growth and success as a leader, as an employee, as part of this team. etc. I have some thoughts about things that I think are getting in your way, are you open to hearing that?”

It’s also important to acknowledge here that feedback exists in many forms in the workplace. There are different dynamics at play if feedback is from peer to peer, or from a leader to a team member, the severity of the issue, etc. Regardless of people’s roles, or the politics or context of the situation, the same foundation of approaching feedback this way is still relevant and applicable.

When these two factors are in play, it’s not necessary to worry about saying the exact, right thing every time. What we’ll get as a result are teams of people who are receptive to feedback and an environment where it is sought after, welcome, and nothing to be afraid of.

This content was created by Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at