Now, let’s see which one of the below answers is objective feedback:
- “I can’t believe you were late again! Do you realize we might lose this pitch because of you?! Are you ever going to be on time to anything?!”
- “Robert, you could’ve been late any other time, but not today. I’m disappointed in you. Please don’t do that again.”
- “Robert, when you are late to meetings, it makes other people, myself included, to doubt your professionalism. Please, try to find a way to arrive on time on meetings in order to avoid such situations in the future. Try to leave 30 minutes earlier than your initial estimation, and let’s start from there. What do you say?”
A and B didn’t feel quite right, did it? That’s because you can sense the anger of the manager and the inability to step away from the issue and offer the feedback from a watcher’s perspective. So why is C the correct answer? The information is presented without anger or powerful emotions, it describes the behavior to be corrected, and the consequences it has on people and situations. Moreover, it’s followed by a piece of advice or a solution, ultimately asking the other person’s opinion over the proposal.
Now, let’s see what’s Robert’s response to the correct feedback (C) and which answer is the appropriate one.
- Not saying anything and just nodding with arms crossed.
- “How come you never tell Eve that?! She’s always late, and no one bats an eye when she arrives 1 hour later to the office! I think you have a personal problem with me.”
- “I said I’m sorry. I can’t go back in time.”
- “But it went well without me anyway!”
- “I apologize for being late today. I will test the solution you’ve given me and try to find the sweet spot for me. Is it ok if we’ll schedule another follow-up meeting to this feedback session to go over the progress?”
Being silent, blaming others, minimizing the problem or finding a bright side isn’t the right way to respond to feedback.
Answer A feels as if you’re not actively listening and just mimic the nodding, while sitting with your arms crossed indicates defensiveness.
Answer B is blaming the fault on others and letting your emotions get the best of you. Eve wasn’t mentioned, and it isn’t about her, while the “personal problem” part is a bias caused by your strong emotions.
Answer C is a little pointless there. It is obvious you can’t go back in time, and you’re not acknowledging the bigger issue there. Saying you’re sorry you’re late but not addressing that you’re at least going to try to fix the problem doesn’t do it. Remember the crumpled piece of paper example?
Answer D is irrelevant because while maybe it did go well without you, that wasn’t Steve’s point. It wasn’t so much about the meeting, but about you. While the meeting has passed, your behavior didn’t, and you can be late next time as well.
The right answer is E. Why? Because you do apologize for the situation, which is the polite thing to do, you’re letting Steve know that you’ll try to correct that behavior and even (as a bonus) propose a follow-up meeting in order to check in with your progress.