Whether at home or the office, giving and receiving feedback is difficult for most people. Research shows that the difficulties associated with feedback have a neurological basis. Neurological studies, such as “The Effect of Criticism on Functional Brain Connectivity” from NIH, show that it activates the amygdala in the human brain. When activated, the amygdala, which handles threat detection and emotional processing (Cohen et al., 2008), can overtake the decision-making process and disrupt logical thinking (Gupta et al., 2001). If feedback is delivered in a way that sparks fear, the interaction can quickly get messy. Influenced by heightened emotions, both parties can quickly become defensive and disengage from the process. Although intended for improvement, feedback sessions can weaken relationships, generate anger, sap motivation, trigger resignation, encourage sloppiness, and lead to absenteeism.
Modern workplaces need a simple and effective method for providing feedback, one that improves morale while changing behaviors.
What Causes Ineffective Feedback?
While feedback is a touchy subject, studies show that employees do indeed want constructive input from their managers. One study showed that 72% of people think that constructive criticism would help improve their performance. Another study revealed that employees appreciate well-delivered corrective feedback (57%) more than praise (43%)! Despite the desire for critical feedback, the very thought of an impending session can cause anxiety and dread for both parties, especially if there is a history of prior unsuccessful attempts. Some factors that contribute to negative experiences include:
- Concerns about offending or upsetting the employee, leading to indirect or unclear feedback
- Offering long-winded explanations without specific examples
- Not offering enough positive feedback
- Judgemental statements like, “That was a bad idea” or “That was just lazy”.
- Telling the employee how to fix his behavior or performance without checking if he is ready to receive suggestions.
It becomes ineffective when the manager is either too direct or too indirect.
- When it is too direct, the employee may perceive the feedback as humiliating, uncaring, and offensive. This triggers the flight or fright response in the amygdala leading to an emotionally charged response from the employee.
- When it is too wordy or indirect, the message is lost in verbose explanations. This type of delivery can confuse the employee, thus reducing the feedback process to a futile exercise.
How to Give Effective Feedback?
For the feedback to be effective, managers have to figure out the proper mode of delivery carefully: not too direct, not too indirect, but just right. It has to be clear, contextual, and facilitate change through inspiration rather than instruction. A successful session will not only boost the employee’s morale and his future performance but also improve the manager-employee relationship.
The question is: Is there a good model that managers can use to provide constructive feedback effectively?
Fortunately, the answer is yes: the EAR model of delivering feedback from Ziksana Consulting!
EAR Model for Effective Delivery
EAR stands for Environment, Action, and Result, the essential ingredients that motivate an employee to lend his ear fully to the feedback from the manager.
The manager must bring up the place, time, and the context in which she observed the behavior that triggered the feedback.
The manager must be specific and detailed about the behavior of the employee, including both the words that the employee spoke and their body language.
The result is all about stating how the behavior impacted the manager emotionally and intellectually. Ziksana’s EAR toolkit recommends that the manager concisely share how the employee’s action impacted her. When presented that way, it leaves no room for the employee to argue. For example, the manager can say, “I felt confused,” but she must avoid providing any feedback about what effect the employee’s behavior might have had on others.
Other Tips for Making Feedback Effective
The EAR model covers the contents of the feedback; the following delivery elements will enhance its effectiveness.
- Give the employee sufficient notice about the performance review session. This can be done by scheduling a formal meeting. If impromptu feedback is called for, deliver it in private and away from team members and get the employee’s permission.
- Use first-person phrases to let the employee know the impact of his words and actions on the manager. Statements like “I thought ….”, “I felt ….”, etc., will convey to the employee that the feedback is not a personal attack but an opportunity for improvement and understanding of the manager’s perspective.
- Pay attention to how the employee is receiving the feedback. Put a defensive employee at ease by asking questions and listening to the responses. Offer advice only if the employee is open and eager for it.
Learn Feedback With Ziksana!
Want to learn and experience Ziksana’s EAR Model of Feedback for yourself? Learn more feedback tips at our ‘Compassionate Communication’ live online workshop.