We’ve all heard the phrase, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” There certainly are a few problems with that statement, one of which is that you have to do all the work!

Who has the time for that?

Instead, time constraints require us to work with other people. And let’s face it, this is the key to getting a lot more work done, even if it is not done exactly the way you want it. If it is an important issue, we find ourselves needing to give the other person constructive feedback.

Let’s face it, getting feedback can be tough enough, but giving it can be even tougher.

Here’s one simple idea that will get you started on the right foot when giving feedback.

Let’s say you have a co-worker who prepares a spreadsheet each month that is then handed off to you for your part of the process. Each time you get the spreadsheet it is organized differently than the prior month. This means you have to take extra time getting familiar with the spreadsheet each month before adding in your information.

Option #1: Here’s how you don’t want to handle this situation…ignore it until one month you’re swamped, this spreadsheet comes across your desk and you blow up at your co-worker. It may seem obvious to you that this is less than ideal, but it is not uncommon for people to let things like this fester because they just don’t know what to say to get the situation corrected.

Option #2: Another common approach is to say something like this to your co-worker, “You need to pick a format for this month’s report and stick with it.” Sounds harmless enough, right? This kind of statement is likely to return a defensive reaction from your co-worker.

In general, people don’t like being told what to do, so they are going to lay a lot of excuses on you. The exchange maybe uncomfortable and you you may or may not get the intended result.

Option #3: Here’s a way to help by-pass the defensiveness. Instead of talking about what they need to do, talk about how you feel about the situation. Your feelings are your feelings, so there’s nothing to dispute. For example, you could say, “I feel frustrated when the format of the spreadsheet changes, because it takes me more time to complete my work. Can we work together to figure out a format that we can use each month?”

Can you see how the need to react defensively is reduced?

You are now in a place where you can work together to figure out a solution that works for both of you. Think about those interactions you have been avoiding and come up with some options for how you can address them. Then get them handled before a blow-up handles them for you.


John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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