Two tips for better performance feedback

It’s generally accepted in organisations that feedback is a good thing.

Training in providing feedback (where it’s given) goes something like this: find some quality time to sit down with a person; be clear about what you want to say; be specific about behaviour and stick to the facts.  All it takes is a good process and a bit of practice, apparently …

Well, not quite.  There are some people who don’t respond very well to feedback and they aren’t necessarily the under-performers. 

It’s actually the highest performers that often have the greatest problem with other people commenting on their behaviour.


Many high performers have two primary drivers – pleasing others and being perfect; sometimes these occur together, sometimes alone.

People Pleasers

People who are driven to please others are often lively, enthusiastic and outgoing.  It can be great having them working for and with you, but they can be prone to emotional over-reactions when they feel they are falling short in the eyes of others.

Feelings first …

Giving feedback to someone who likes to please others is a tricky affair.  Pitching in by commenting on their behaviour is not a good idea.  At the back of their minds their feelings of self-worth are incredibly tied up with how happy they feel others are with them.  Any sort of cold, behavioural feedback can make them very unhappy – no matter how precise your competency framework is!

So, start by letting people pleasers know that you care about their feelings.  The next step is to get them to explore their feelings in more depth by asking questions.  This gets them thinking, which is what you want.  The more they think, they more they become self-aware and the more they become self-aware, the better they become at managing their own behaviour.  It’s their awareness that’s the key here – that’s the essential pre-condition for change.


With people who are driven to be perfect, you’ll often find they are hard-working, conscientious and dependable and they seem on the surface to be model corporate citizens.  The problem is that they are prone to over-work and anxiety and can become workaholics.  The fewer mistakes they make, the more they think people value them. 

Thoughts first …

Giving feedback that really lands with a perfectionist doesn’t start with commenting on behaviour either.  Again, if they are doing the best they can, how will asking them to behave differently help?  It’s much more likely to get a defended and resentful response.  Start the feedback process by talking to them about what they think about how things are going.  Again, this is best achieved through open questions.  Then move onto feelings by continuing to ask questions.  This should start to connect feelings and thoughts together more and help them get over a sense of self-worth that’s defined pretty much solely by achievement.

Want to know more?

In the end, providing great feedback is about developing relationships and it’s not simply about following a process. That could mean brushing up your skills in listening, coaching or conflict management.  Perhaps we could help?

In the meantime, have a look at the great material that we have collected and put on or browse our flagship book – Staying Sane in Business



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