It is drilled into us through self-help books, motivational lectures, and seminars that the best way to give feedback is by utilizing the constructive feedback approach.
Very simply, constructive feedback is one where you appreciate what the other person is doing right and point out their mistakes. Not only that, an essential part of it is that you also let the other person know exactly what needs to be done in order to improve.
This is no doubt an effective feedback approach but is it always necessary?
There are two other types of feedback as well, which you might not know formally but you may be using them all along. Knowing them formally would add them to your arsenal for use in situations where they might prove to be more beneficial rather than resorting to constructive feedback.
In this feedback approach you simply let the other person know how well they performed overall. An example of this can be if you told a joke and no one laughed, that’s an outcome feedback. You get to know that overall it wasn’t good but you don’t get to know exactly why. Was your tone not correct, or did you not pause enough for the listener to digest, or was the audience not aware of any background context, or was it simply boring?
Outcome feedback is used daily by us without even noticing. When you tip the waiter, he knows that his service was good but not exactly what was it that you liked in particular.
This feedback has the advantage that it can be given in an instant and often without the need to utter a single word. It can be made use of at work as well. If your team is performing well, then saying a simple ‘good job’ would let them know that you appreciate their efforts. And of course, if they perform beyond expectations, then giving a dinner treat is also an example of outcome feedback.
In this feedback approach you let the other person know about individual aspects of their performance. The best example of this is when you get back your exam papers marked. Not only can you see overall how well you performed, say an ‘A’ grade, but you can also see which answers you got right and which weren’t quite satisfactory.
Professional level coaches make use of informational feedback when training world-class athletes. They are fully aware of the fact that the athlete is way more skilled than they are at the sport. So, how do they provide coaching? They don’t tell the athlete how to improve. They only point out their weak areas and let the athlete do the rest.
Giving informational feedback is particularly useful in an office setting. There may be times when going as far as offering suggestions on what you think the other person needs to improve and how would seem a bit bossy. It is often okay to just tell your colleague that the ‘sales table on slide 3 seems a bit confusing’ and not dictate to them how to make it better.
Which feedback to use?
It totally depends on the context and your mood. Generally, when you are in a hurry and the other person doesn’t specifically ask for a feedback, then outcome feedback would suffice.
When the other person asks for input say after a presentation, then informational feedback seems like an appropriate choice. And when you really care for the other person or are giving feedback to the team you are leading, then constructive feedback is the way to go.
Whatever feedback you give, may sure it is sincere. Otherwise, it’s better to give none at all.