Some organizational cultures embrace and even insist upon regular peer-to-peer feedback. In other companies, if you give a peer a suggestion, it may be perceived as odd or even “none of your business.” (It is your business, of course, if your success is dependent upon the other person’s effectiveness.)
When and how should you give feedback to a peer?
When you have a relationship of trust. You don’t need to be best friends, but some level of comfort is required. If your relationship is new or uncertain, tread with caution. If you aren’t certain that you have the other person’s best interest at heart, don’t give the feedback. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Don’t just convince him; be the friend.
When you are relaxed and prepared. If you are hurried or distracted, reschedule. Your peer will pick up on your mental state, and this will cloud the valuable feedback to be given.
When you’re just as likely to give positive feedback as negative. People need to hear about what they do well as well as what they could improve upon. Be sure to praise, reinforce and inspire the people around you, before you share an area of potential growth.
After you ask permission. Some people realize the advantages of peer-to-peer feedback, both professionally and personally. Some do not welcome feedback, or it may be coming at an inconvenient time. Show the other person the courtesy of asking to share your insight, and make sure it’s a good time to do so.
Based on visible behaviors. Stay clear of feedback about a person’s attitude or personality. Likewise, never share others’ perspectives or impressions that you’ve heard. A comment like, “some people have said…” is easily misunderstood and potentially toxic. Represent your own perspective, based on tangible behaviors you’ve witnessed.
With limited advice. Offer advice only as a last resort, and only if you’re asked to do so. Remember that your approach and experience may be different and not transferable to this person’s reality.
If you’re able to take it as well as give it. Make sure you’re not resistant to feedback, before you share some with another person. Sure, you may struggle when you hear something negative, but you need to be able to hear and act upon the input. If you’re not there yet, you really aren’t in a position to tell others what they need to improve.
Remember that it is not your job to fix others. It is your job to fix you, first and foremost. As Aldous Huxley said, “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” That said, giving feedback to others is a gift, provided it’s offered with a genuine spirit of care.
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