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Giving feedback

HR people at all levels find themselves in situations where giving feedback, at times, may be unwelcome, difficult or resisted.

It may be that the person has failed to follow appropriate procedures, in which case it’s relatively straightforward because the evidence is clear.  However, some feedback is likely to be behavioural – about situations where the person has not demonstrated appropriate behaviours or has not lived up to the organisation’s values.  This is more challenging, because it can be more subjective and the risk is that it is seen as personal.  Using factual evidence, together with calm and clear language, helps to get the feedback across in a way that is acceptable and useful to the recipient.

The feedback may be based on your own experience but, by the nature of the HR role, it can also be based on information that has been provided by others.  This necessitates a particularly careful approach.

Here we share quick highlights.

Be firm on the facts and explore the reasons

  • Provide facts, evidence or example
    Factual evidence is harder to argue with, and provides a strong start point.
  • Explain the impact of the actions
    This helps the person to understand why their behaviour was unhelpful, and thus to accept responsibility
  • Explore what could change
    This includes exploring the reasons and the background behind what happened.

We include this within Push because it is often necessary to persist, to repeat, to persevere with courage as well as skill.

This situation may have arisen because of conflict within the environment.  Understanding sources of conflict can help you to de-personalise the situation and remain calmer.

Depending on the situation, this conversation can provide a good opportunity to coach.

Pushing back against feedback you don't agree with

HR people can sometimes be at the receiving end of comments about the function, or the way you operate, that feel unfair.  Not everyone understands the complexity of the HR role, the range of stakeholder needs you have to balance, or the pressures you can face.

The three points above can be used equally effectively to promote a constructive conversation about the feedback:

  • Request factual feedback and examples to illustrate their claim
  • Explore the impact that this is having on them.  From here you can win the opportunity to explain the perspective from your side
  • Explore what could change, or could improve the situation for them.

Even a difficult conversation like this can develop into a valuable and constructive session where you move forward together to a better mutual understanding.

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