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Giving Critical Feedback in Business Workplace

Huy Nguyen
November 11, 2023

Giving Critical Feedback in Business Workplace

Huy Nguyen

November 11, 2023
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  1. Giving Critical Feedback in
    Business Workplace
    Huy Nguyen – May 2023

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  2. When was the last time you felt
    totally comfortable when giving
    someone critical feedback?

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  3. We all faced situations where we
    should give feedback to someone.
    But we are somehow afraid to do so.

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  4. People are often afraid of giving feedback
    Why? High risk, low return
    ● High risk: Recipients often get defensive, hurt feelings
    & worsen relationships
    ● Low return: “The inconvenience isn’t that big to me,
    anyway”

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  5. But if done right, giving feedback well
    is among the best tools to grow
    people, build stronger relationships
    and happier workplace.

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  6. Feedback usually falls into 2 extremes
    ● Too subtle: The other person doesn’t recognize as
    feedback, not taking it seriously.
    ● Too direct: The other person feels threatened & gets
    defensive.
    → Either not effective, or counterproductive.

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  7. Let’s learn how to give better feedback
    ● First-principles thinking to feedback giving
    ● For giver: How to give feedback that don’t suck
    ● For Getter: How to handle (receive) feedback well
    ● For Company: Building a good feedback-giving culture
    Covered in subsequent talks

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  8. First, what is feedback?
    And when do we need to use them?

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  9. Me: “ThanhGPT, what is feedback?”
    ThanhGPT: “Feedback is the solution. What is the
    problem?”

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  10. Chances are when you feel the need to feedback
    someone, there’s a situation happened that is
    suboptimal (the problem).
    “Giving feedback” is just one option among different
    solutions you can take.
    It’s important to understand the problem surrounding
    the situation thoroughly first.

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  11. Let’s look at some situations where
    feedback is needed

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  12. Sitting through a bad presentation
    The speaker didn’t prepare properly, took longer than needed,
    gave a boring presentation

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  13. Clash in working styles with colleague

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  14. A chatty colleague
    Alice just joined the company.
    Alice sits next to Bob, a friendly
    colleague… almost too friendly.
    Bob talks a lot. Alice gets
    annoyed, cannot do work.

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  15. Insight: Giving feedback is part of problem-solving
    process. Apply your problem solving skills.
    ● Why does Bob behave that way?
    ● What’s the impact on Alice?
    ● What can we do to stop this?

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  16. Notice that without talking to Bob, we won’t know
    the reasons behind his behaviour.
    ⇒ Idea: We should include Bob as part of the
    problem-solving process

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  17. Components of Feedback

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  18. Alice: “Hey Bob, you talk to me a lot. I feel distracted
    and cannot do my work. Can you stop bothering too
    much?”

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  19. Observation: “you talk to me a lot”
    Perspective: “I feel distracted”
    Request: “Can you stop bothering me?”

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  20. Understand the different components of a feedback is
    critical to knowing how to deliver it well.
    Depending on the situation, learn to include or omit various
    components.

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  21. The obstacles of giving
    (and getting) effective feedback

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  22. Amygdala:
    The human fight-or-flight
    defense mechanism

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  23. "When we perceive a threat, the amygdala sounds an
    alarm, releasing a cascade of chemicals in the body.
    Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol flood our
    system, immediately preparing us for fight or flight.
    When this deeply instinctive function takes over, we call it
    “amygdala hijack”, or “We’ve been triggered.”

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  24. “We notice immediate changes like an increased heart rate or
    sweaty palms. Our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid
    as we take in more oxygen, preparing to bolt if we have to.
    The active amygdala also immediately shuts down the neural
    pathway to our prefrontal cortex so we can become
    disoriented in a heated conversation.
    Complex decision-making disappears, as does our access to
    multiple perspectives. As our attention narrows, we find
    ourselves trapped in the one perspective that makes us feel the
    most safe: “I’m right and you’re wrong,” even though we
    ordinarily see more perspectives.”

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  25. Insight: These reactions are automatic
    It’s not controlled by your “human” (người) part of
    your brain. It’s controlled by the “lizard” (con) part of
    your brain.

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  26. Understand that it will be
    there even when you’re aware
    of it.
    Learn how to deal with it.

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  27. Sidenote: How conflict escalates
    A gives feedback to B
    B took it the wrong way, gets
    emotionally triggered ⇒ Become
    aggressive, fight back, engage in
    personal attack.
    A gets triggered, retaliate.

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  28. Conflict is escalated due to the reciprocally
    aggressive and competitive behavior of the parties.
    “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

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  29. Let’s put them together

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  30. Principles & Best Practices for
    Giving Feedback

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  31. Principles
    ● Treat feedback as a problem-solving process.
    ○ Bring the recipient on your side.
    ● Understand & accept human’ natural defense
    mechanism
    ○ Learn how to deal with them accordingly.

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  32. 10 Best Practices (Tactical)
    ● This list is not exhaustive. Feel free to reflect and add
    your own.
    ● Most important is to understand the principles
    (philosophy) behind.

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  33. 1- Check your intention (intrinsic motivation)
    ● Is it to
    ○ Vent your frustrations (and make you feel better)?
    ○ To help the other person be aware/improve the
    situation?
    ● Different intentions have different strategies to
    deliver the feedback.

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  34. 2- Check your relationship with the recipient
    ● To receive feedback effectively, the recipient must trust the
    giver.
    ● Check your relationship dynamic with them: how they feel
    treated by you, your (lack of) credibility, (un)trustworthiness, or
    (questionable) motives.
    ● Then, determine between direct vs indirect feedback.

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  35. 3- Ask for permission
    ● Ask if they're open to receive some feedback
    ● This allows them to mentally prepare for it.
    ○ Give the recipient the sense of control.
    ○ They can say No, and that’s perfectly fine.
    ● Get a mini-yes

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  36. 4- Are you sure you’re right? Understand &
    clarify
    ● Feedback is basically opinions based on limited set of
    information.
    ○ Make sure you’re open to hear the other person’s
    perspectives, and open to change your mind.
    ● Use Assertive Inquiry.

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  37. ● Human nature tends to expand what we see or
    hear—our observations—into a story that helps us
    make sense of it all.
    ● Don’t guess.
    5- Separate facts (observations) from opinions
    (perspectives)

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  38. 6- Apply empathetic listening
    ● Difference between “critical listening” and
    “empathetic listening”
    ● Critical listening: listening for the consistency and
    accuracy in a speaker’s message
    ● Empathetic listening: Listening to see the world from
    the other person’s perspective.

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  39. 7- Say your intentions out loud
    ● Even people know you are approaching it with good
    intention, talking it out loud still helps.
    ● Examples:
    ○ “I want you to be an inspiring leader in the worst
    of situations. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got
    to rethink how you express yourself in big
    meetings.”

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  40. 8- Side with the person, not the problem

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  41. 8- Side with the person, not the problem

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  42. 9- Separate behaviours from characters
    ● Don’t associate the person with the problem (assume they won’t
    change)
    ○ Have a ‘growth mindset’ on the other person
    ● Avoid using ‘labeling’ language.
    ○ “She is a little aggressive”

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  43. 9- Separate behaviours from characters

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  44. Best Practices
    Pre Delivery:
    1. Check your intentions
    2. Check the relationship
    3. Seek permission to discuss feedback
    During Delivery:
    4. Are you sure you’re right? Understand & clarify
    5. Apply empathetic listening
    6. Announce your intentions
    7. Separate facts from opinions
    8. Side with the person, not the problem
    9. Separate behaviours from characters

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  45. Summary
    ● Giving feedback is difficult and often avoided. But it’s
    among the best tools to help grow people and build better
    relationships.
    ● Look at feedback as part of a problem solving process.
    ● Understand how the human’s defense mechanism reacts
    against critical feedback, devise strategy to work with
    them accordingly.

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  46. References
    ● “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving
    Feedback Well” (Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen)
    ● “Let's Talk: Make Effective Feedback Your Superpower” (Therese
    Huston)
    ● “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” (Marshall B.
    Rosenberg)
    ● Calming Your Brain During Conflict (HBR)
    ● The secret to giving great feedback (TEDTalk)

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  47. Origin of ‘feedback’
    ● “feed-back”: coined in the 1860s during the Industrial Revolution to
    describe the way that outputs of energy or signals are returned to
    their point of origin (mechanical system).
    ● After WW2: used in industrial relations when talking about people
    and performance management.
    ○ “Feed corrective information back to the point of origin”—that
    would be you, the employee

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  48. 3 forms of feedback
    ● Appreciation: Positive feedback, praises
    ● Coaching: here’s a better way to do it
    ● Evaluation: here’s where you stand

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