My first awareness of “feedback” was listening in the garage to the noise created by my brother on his guitar. When I complained of the hideous screeches and racket he was making he just claimed it was the “feedback” not his lack of musical talent that sounded so unpleasant. The next time I came across the term I was at a school party having a nice time and a popular mean girl came up to me and asked me “can I give you some feedback?” I responded that she could, even though I wasn’t too sure what it meant, and she proceeded to inform me “I would never wear that” and walked off.

It doesn’t seem logical, but from that shaky start, I have come to adore feedback in both its positive and negative forms. When given correctly, there is no better tool for genuine improvement. According to the online version of the Oxford Dictionary at feedback is defined as “Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.” In the workplace, feedback is a common commodity that is used to highlight either what you do well or what you should improve on. It’s a key part of growth and, when given correctly and with good intentions, it can be extremely valuable for improvement.

The giving of feedback is often considered a natural talent held by all, especially by those who manage others. However, it really should be considered a learned skill, like driving – wherein a license should be obtained prior to a person being allowed to present feedback to others. Providing negative feedback is not a justification to be mean, in its true form feedback should:

  1. Only be provided when the motive is a genuine desire to improve the person, situation, or product; it is easier for the recipient to process when the intention is sincerely towards improvement.
  2. Be based on reasons that can be discussed and used to create steps for improvement.
  3. Link to desirable outcomes if implemented. Providing the vision of the changes that incorporating the feedback would provide reinforces the idea of improvement.

If feedback fails to meet these standards, it’s mean – not meaningful.

Michelle Smirnoff

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