Four Fortunate Ways to Frame Peer Feedback

November 14, 2016
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Communicating constructive criticism in an effective manner that benefits both parties can be downright challenging.  This is especially true when providing feedback to peers in the workplace which is a growing trend. Peer-to-peer feedback regarding an employee’s strengths and weaknesses offers insights into their performance beyond the top-down reviews given by their supervisors. 

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Here are four ways to deliver peer feedback effectively.

Prepare your points.  In order for a peer-to-peer feedback discussion to be productive, it is critical to prepare beforehand.  Dale Carnegie said, “Only the prepared speaker deserves to be confident.”  To deliver constructive criticism confidently, think about your goals for the meeting before you meet with your peer.  Consider some of the ways you can help her grow in her role, and how you can work together to better attain team goals.  Arm yourself with a few specific examples of behavior that should be modified so when speaking you can share relevant examples and suggest better ways of handling things.   

Use the growth mindset as a guide.  In her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck explains, “In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail—or if you’re not the best—it’s all been wasted.  The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.”  Use mistakes as a teaching tool.  For example, if someone is running a report incorrectly, demonstrate the right way to do it and say something encouraging such as, “Now you know exactly how to do it and can feel confident every time you publish the results!”  Dale Carnegie’s 29th Human Relations principle, ‘Use encouragement.  Make the fault seem easy to correct,’ reinforces how important it is to use words of encouragement when correcting mistakes to foster as much employee growth as possible.

Position your passive voice.  This step may require some practice, however it is a critical skill—especially if you are vying for a leadership position.  For example, if a colleague says, “You did not provide enough evidence when presenting your case for investing in XYZ,” it will most likely be interpreted as harsh criticism.  Instead, she should use a passive tone to state, “The presentation supporting additional investment in XYZ would be stronger with additional supporting facts.”  While both statements essentially say same the same thing, the latter focus feedback around on the subject instead of the individual.  This approach reinforces Dale Carnegie’s 23rd principle, ‘Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.’

Assume good intentions.  76% of employees surveyed said that positive feedback from their peers motivated them.  To ensure a positive delivery, assume that the person receiving constructive criticism had the best of intentions.  Avoid dwelling on what went wrong and focus on how it can be done right.  Dale Carnegie’s 26thHuman Relations principle, ‘Let the other person save face,’ reminds us to assume our peers have good intentions and to provide positive feedback along with constructive criticism.

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