How to Give Colleagues Feedback

Nobody likes unsolicited advice, right?

However, in a work environment, sometimes addressing a quality performance issue is necessary. You don't have to be in a leadership position to get the desired result, but you may need to emotionally regulate yourself to keep it from escalating to a conflict.

Here's a quick example:

When performing in an ensemble, I noticed that the person playing a part similar to mine was consistently performing the wrong articulation.

Understanding circumstances:
I asked the person if we could compare parts to see if there was a misprint.
This was a legitimate inquiry, since misprints are fairly common. 

Getting to the reason behind a quality issue is important. Don't make assumptions. Understanding the problem fully is critical to solving it.

In this case, there was not a misprint
and the person firmly denied ever playing it incorrectly.

Most of the time, the person is happy to have the inconsistency pointed out, but in other cases, the person may have difficulties accepting feedback OR you may be inaccurate in your assessment. Invite them to help you understand the context and help fix the problem.

The part was performed correctly after that. 

So I had to take a bit of verbal backlash, BUT the outcome elevated the ensemble. There was also no lasting damage to the professional relationship between the two of us. 

Why not get leadership involved?
Egos can get bruised much easier when private feedback becomes public feedback. Also, this was a small issue that was easily handled between the two of us. 

When a colleague has a delicate ego, you'll have to ask yourself if it's worth it for you to speak up or if you should get leadership involved. Learning to manage these situations and these types of colleagues is a skill worth developing in order to save time and trouble.

Here's the trick:
You have to be able to say these things with a sense of humility and the goal of improving quality. If you are trying to look better than or compete with a colleague, this will pervade every word and action. It may be better to have someone else, a common colleague or leadership, address the issue.

Most colleagues want the same thing as you do: a quality product that represents the best of your team. Keeping the big picture in mind will help you from taking any negative reaction personally. Small problems can be fixed easily as long as everyone keeps their ego in check and has the team's best interest in mind.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a music educator, freelance performer, and leadership coach whose mission is to inspire awareness and empowerment so that others can be agents of positive change in the world. Insecure about your abilities? Grab the free guide "3 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome" here.

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