Giving feedback is of course best done in person. However, in the digital era this may not always be practical or possible and a lot of feedback already occurs via email, text messages or social media.
There are many ways to give feedback, some more effective than others. I have probably made every mistake possible. I’ve also seen really good and some not so good examples, including on this blog.
Giving effective feedback requires more than stating errors or shortcomings. Problem identification, clarification and advice or suggestions for improvement are useful parts of the feedback process.
To make feedback acceptable and useful for the recipient, it is best delivered in a supportive way, including both positive and negative observations. We all know this is not always happening on social media, comments sections and blogs. Sometimes basic elements of respect and dignity are forgotten, which may undo the positive effects of feedback.
Most doctors and other health professionals are passionate about what they do, but we also experience excessive occupational demands and sometimes lack of personal support. Electronic means of communication can play an important support role, but can also be a source of stress.
Some research suggests that doctors have high expectations of self, are achievement-oriented and have a tendency to self-blame. Together with the often non-disclosure of personal distress, this makes the profession vulnerable for burnout. Let’s be kind to ourselves and our peers.
Consequences & effect
We all appreciate helpful and constructive feedback, so it is good to think about the way we give feedback to others and the consequences our comments may have in the digital space.
The Medical Board’s Code of Conduct mentions ‘communicating respectfully’ and ‘behaving professionally and courteously to colleagues and other practitioners, including when using social media’.
An honest, well-formulated feedback message can be powerful and may have a positive impact. To achieve this I recommend the following 10 do’s and don’ts:
- Be kind & respectful
- Help create positive, safe environments at work and in the digital space
- Base comments on direct observations and facts, not rumours or hear-say
- Be specific and to-the-point (and try to separate multiple issues)
- Apply the feedback rules of constructive criticism (e.g. include positives and negatives)
- Try to use positive words such as appreciate, suggest, improve, assist, solution, like, right, thanks
- Before posting on public forums try to give direct feedback first
- Only say things on social media you would be prepared to repeat face-to-face
- Be prepared to listen and examine your own actions and behaviour
- Always keep the social media policies and code of conduct of your organisation or profession in mind.
- Don’t just list problems, propose solutions too
- Don’t psychoanalyse or judge people, instead focus on actions & effect
- Don’t give feedback before fully understanding the issues (there are always two sides to every story)
- Try to avoid using words such as should, never, always, why, you(r), but – and especially the stronger ones like dumb, fail, ludicrous, crazy, farce, ridiculous, shambles
- Don’t press the send/post button when you are upset, angry or tired
- Avoid using exclamation marks and capital letters midsentence (comes across as shouting)
- Avoid giving the same feedback multiple times
- Avoid irony and humour as it may be misinterpreted
- Don’t phrase feedback as a question
- Don’t speak for others unless you are a representative.
What is your preferred method of giving effective feedback?
Video: 10 Common mistakes in giving feedback (Source: Center for Creative Leadership):