“Tell it like it is” the key to good feedback?


What’s the best way to let your colleagues and staff know how they’re doing and find out how you’re doing yourself?

The notion of “radical candour” has been mentioned often in the media since the New Year: some say “tell it like it is” with no ambiguity or couching what you say to someone in softer language. For example, “You messed up because you didn’t know your subject matter,” or “you came across as if you don’t care what happens to this division.”

Is this a good thing?

Many of us have had to deal with a member of staff who is part of our team but has been shunted from one part of the organisation to another because they are ineffectual or have poor interpersonal skills but have never been given the feedback! Not being open with someone can end up with disappointing results, a dissatisfied boss and a confused or disillusioned individual who can’t understand why they’re constantly overlooked for promotion or unpopular with their workmates.

It’s good and necessary to give feedback. We need to know when things are going well and that what we’ve done has worked, just as we need to have specific issues or shortcomings pointed out. In this way, everyone has the opportunity to change for the better or build on their success to develop and grow.

We’re all different though. Some of us need a subtle conversation or a series of discussions to highlight matters whereas others need an issue spelling out in no uncertain terms. Feedback, like all communication, is only successful when it lands with the individual and makes a difference to them. The way this is done successfully, again as with other communication, is to adapt your approach to each person. You may prefer a nuanced dialogue but the person on the receiving end may respond better to sharp, direct input.

Candour has its virtues but needs to take into account the individual and, as with all feedback, timing, use of examples and follow through with support is essential to make a lasting and desired impact.

Gillian Morley is a Partner in Attain Development who have a passion for increasing the number of women in Board and Senior Management positions. This post originally appeared on Attain’s blog.

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