Feedback Bombs Cause Destruction

Constructive feedback is a fallacy. The traditional form of feedback looks like, I am right you are wrong, let me tell you how to stop screwing up and to work better.  This usually comes across in an arrogant way and does not consider the other person’s perspective.  Dropping a feedback bomb on someone always causes destruction.

To have a better conversation, we have to change the frame. We must both be open, honest, and willing to help each other improve.  There is no such thing as a hole in your side of the boat.  If the boat is sinking, we are both going down.  We both need to see how we can help each other.

The goal should be performance improvement by way of collaboration to make things work better; to help improve performance. Performance is measured around tasks, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.  The interpersonal dimension involves working together to get a result.

The language you use matters. Dangerous language confuses facts with opinions.  Opinions are personal views.  There is a difference between saying “You are doing something wrong” versus “I don’t like something”.

The first step is always preparation. Approach the conversation with the right frame of mind in the spirit of improving.  Both of you have something to contribute.  Use “I” language and give evidence of your view.  By doing so, you take responsibility for your opinion.  It helps minimize defensiveness.

Here is an example of what I mean. Consider the difference between these statements.

“It is taking you 3 days to return customer’s calls. You have to get it to 24 hours.”

I am not comfortable with it taking our team 3 days to return customer’s calls. I would like to talk through how we can improve the time to 24 hours.  What do you think?”

The first raises defensiveness and assigns blame without checking for another’s views. The second takes ownership of the view and states a standard to work toward.  It also initiates collaboration by asking what the other person thinks.

Never drop a bomb. Lead by taking responsibility for your opinion and collaborating to achieve improved performance.


To learn more about giving feedback that sticks, please join me for my upcoming series, How to Become a Highly Successful Manager: Essential Supervisory Skills, hosted by the Larimer County Workforce Center October 14, 21, and 28 in Ft. Collins, CO.  For more information and to register, go to



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