I have a question about just how private feedback needs to be. Here is my problem: I very rarely enter into the personal space of my directs in such a way that I talk to them in a quiet voice (with the volume that would make the conversation feel private to them). Most of the time I have been giving feedback during our one on ones (I'm still in my first 3 months of doing feedback). So, during an O3, privacy isn't an issue since they are sitting close to me in my office (and I usually, though not always, have the door closed for O3's).

However, whenver I give feedback outside of a one on one, as soon as I ask, "Hey, can I give you some feedback?" my directs usually look like they want to shut the door of whatever room we are in because, of course, they are fearing I'm going to say something negative (at this point I still have some directs that I am doing only positiive feedback with, and none of them have gotten more than 5% negative feedback. Yes, it's actually been more than 95% positive for all of them.)

So, here is my dilemma: do I start to do something new and awkward? That is, whenever I want to give them feedback do I start moving real close to them and talking in a quiet voice? This would be very unlike me, very unnatural, since I prefer a wider amount of personal space between me and others. And they would know, whenever I'm doing that, to brace themselves for feedback. Of course, this might not be a bad thing, and it might simply be something I (and they) just have to deal with. But, to be frank, it does make feedback feel much less natural; and I know the feedback model is meant to minimize this (non-naturalness).

Here is what I fear happening: Suppose I see there is an opportunity for feedback based on their behavior (whether positive or negative) and then I think to myself, "Geez, if I'm going to really give them feedback I can't just tell them. Now I've got to move in real close and talk quiet," and, honestly, with my personal preferences about space, I will probably find it way too unmotivating and I will end up giving less feedback than I should.

So, my question is this: Should I make sure that my directs really FEEL that feedback is private? So far it has really been 100% private, even if they have shown they've wanted to close the door and be alone before I give it. I don't think anyone has ever overheard me giving any feedback to anyone else. But they almose look like they won't be able to concentrate on what I'm saying to them, even though they say "Yes," I can indeed give them feedback.

Should I just overcome my own personal preferences and start standing a lot closer to my directs when I have conversations with them?

Anyone else ever dealt with this?

ssentes's picture
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The delivery of Feedback (or any management technique for that matter) is not about your own personal comfort. You are not being paid by your company to only do things that you are comfortable with and like doing.

That said, there are many locations that could work for feedback where you do not have to enter your directs personal space. Some of these examples may include; asking your direct to hang back a second after a meeting and delivering when the room is cleared, delivering while walking down the hall together when no one else is there, delivering while they are in their office or cubicle, etc. And at times yes, this may require you getting a bit closer to them in order to deliver feedback at a quieter volume.

If you have rolled out the trinity to your directs they will know the purpose of Feedback is to encourage effective behavior rather than to punnish them. They will also know that the ratio of positive feedback is 9:1 which you have also proven to them based on your actions up until this point. Feedback is merely an exchange of information in which you as the manager are providing behavioral information in order to help them improve.

So yes you will be uncomfortable at the beginning and they will be uncomforatable at the beginning. Just as any new behavior is not natural at the start, Feedback not done in private will feel unnatural at the start. But do not fret, as soon as you ask "Can I give you some Feedback" they are already bracing themselves. This lack of comfort, this unnatural feeling, this fear will fade away as the relationship grows and you will both be better for it.

Sarah Sentes - Manager Tools Presenting Associate