Fight the Feedback Gremlins

May 9, 2018

Giving constructive feedback is harder than you think. It needs to be carefully considered, planned, and requires strong verbal communication. Here Simon explains how you avoid becoming a ‘Feedback Gremlin’!

By Simon Underwood

I’ve worked for a wide range of managers with various feedback styles – from those who are over eager with praise (“Oh My Goodness you are one in a million, thank you so much! You are truly a saint”) err okay, I’ve just turned up for work?  To the downright rude (“No! Wrong! Start again!”) and I’ve just turned up for work!

So, why is feedback so important I heard you ask? Surely if the tasks are completed and the jobs are done who cares how feedback is being delivered? Well, recent studies show that a consistent issue with poorly performing companies is the feedback given to the team.  So why not get your business performing optimally and hone those feedback skills?

Gremlins to avoid.

The Irritability Gremlin: Letting your own mood negatively affect the way you deliver feedback.

Jeff has three kids under five years old and hasn’t slept properly since 2013. Last night was particularly tough as his wife was unwell and his train was delayed on the way to work.

Jeff has to deliver the bad news that a successful project has been pulled. Jeff should be delivering this news in a balanced and well-mannered way, to highlight the teams good work and display his disappointment on their behalf. However, instead he delivers the news in a short, sharp and defeated manner, deflating the team for the rest of the day.

Don’t be like Jeff. Instead, take account of the message you need to deliver and your own emotional state, ensure that you project the right message, and shelve your own personal feelings.

Fundamental Attribution Error Gremlin: You judge others’ actions as being a result of their fundamental dispositions or character rather than the situational factors.

For instance, Bill’s manager thinks that he lacks new ideas as he doesn’t speak up in meetings. However, the other individuals in the meetings tend to shout over each other – so he can’t get a word in edgeways! If Bill’s manager were to speak to him face to face they would discover that he actually has plenty of new ideas to contribute.

Incongruous Gremlin: Wherethe deliverer’s body language doesn’t reflect their words.

Jill delivers a message to her team about changes from head office. She says that these changes are positive and that she’s looking forward to moving in a new direction. However, the entire time she is speaking, she’s fidgeting and looking anxious. The team go away and gossip about what they really believe is going on.

So how do you get it right?

Plan beforehand. Think about where you will deliver your message, is the boardroom too formal? Are the sofas in the coffee shop too informal?Consider why you’re giving the feedback. Is it to develop the individual? Is it to make you feel better? Is it to make the receiver feel better? Consider the desired outcome before delivering the message.

Verbal communication needs to be correct, so here’s a formula to help you deliver the correct message:

  • 2 positive comments to 1 negative comment is the correct ratio to convey average performance.
  • 6 positive comments to 1 negative comment is the correct ratio to convey good performance
  • 1 positive to 3 negatives will be perceived as poor performance.


Ensure that your mindset and body language reflects the message you’re delivering. Try to be considerate of the receiver’s mindset, their feelings towards you and the environment you’re in.

A good way to help you empathise with the receiver is to imagine what they perceive to be their ideal ‘career self’. This will help you to understand how they wish to be perceived and which messages they will be receptive to in order to ensure they achieve or maintain this.

If your team need help with giving effective feedback, just get in touch!

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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