Honesty in Feedback

I have a collection of Dilberts and while going through them today, I found this gem on honesty. Reminded me of giving and receiving feedback and whether its honest or otherwise.

We all give feedback regularly, whether we like it or not. It could be right, wrong, direct or sandwiched. Feedback can be silent, vocal or a combination of the two :). I consider feedback as an art with science involved.

Tips to give feedback

  1. You need to witness the behaviour/action/words. Never give feedback on hearsay. Its bound to fail and devolve into “you said”, “she said”, “they said”.
  2. Remove emotion from the feedback giving process – state the incident and share the impact. Often the tone conveys the emotion. So be watchful of the tone and keep it neutral.
  3. Feedback has to be instant. It cannot be given 20 years later or at a time when it suits you.
  4. Be precise – was it the choice of words or the tone or the body language. What specifically didn’t work.
  5. Suggest some remedial action and ask for suggestions from the feedback receiver.

Sandwiched Feedback

Most managers struggle to give feedback. Its a wrong perception that you should always give positive feedback. Constructive feedback is invaluable in one’s growth and it has to be direct. Managers shy away from giving feedback because it sometimes leads to conflict, but giving and receiving feedback is an important responsibility.

  1. Blowing sunshine initially and then slipping in your feedback doesn’t work. For e.g – “Your report is so colourful. You are truly creative. BUT, the numbers mentioned are all incorrect.”
  2. Using motherhood statements to soften the blow. For e.g – “All of us have the right intentions and all human beings are good BUT sometimes we have to do some things that are not right. I understand why this happened”. The world has been giving this particular feedback to the terrorists for long ….. no wonder terrorism only grows :):).
  3. The political sandwiched feedback. President Biden gave the best example for this during his interaction with Dr. Swati Mohan recently. He said “Indian-Americans are taking over the country: you, my vice president, my speechwriter Vinay…. “. Clearly the feedback is all praise for Indian-Americans BUT when you read between the lines, the pain of losing out shows.

Clearly sandwiched feedback in the corporate world and personal lives doesn’t work. Politically too it doesn’t work, but most politicians have elevated it to an art form.

Receiving Feedback

Feedback is a gift, always. Sometimes though, you would like to return a gift or not accept it. Its the same with feedback. Some people like to hurt the other person, put them down or derail their growth. Incompetent managers are often also arrogant and will provide incorrect feedback. Have seen several superstar performers getting totally under confident because of the feedback from their manager.

Its always important to listen to feedback and evaluate if there is merit in it. Say “thank you” irrespective of the type of feedback but don’t take it to heart. A simple test to differentiate good and bad feedback is if it demoralises you or makes you doubt your abilities, its no good.

Honesty in Feedback

Honesty is not always the best policy. The alternative is not to lie. Silence works at times, and a neutral tone while giving feedback also works.

Our body language is something that is a dead giveaway in interpersonal relationships. Train your intuition to pick up on the unspoken words and the unexpressed feelings.

Do read a couple of earlier posts of mine – Feedback is a gift and Dilbert Wisdom to start the day !

1 thought on “Honesty in Feedback”

  1. Good one πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘ I kind of felt like me doing the sandwiched feedback number 2 most of the times … not knowing how not to hurt the person and also wishing to convey what I think … it doesn’t work I realised.. 😊😊 very nicely put in .


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