Giving feedback: take the person into account

Posted on December 10, 2014 at 14:33 PM

Giving feedback thoroughly and effectively makes a real impact on how successful the 360 degree feedback process will be.

But how the individual reacts and responds to both positive and negative feedback depends very much on how they are wired.  Those driven to succeed and attain goals (ie those who are ‘positively wired’), interpret and internalise positive and negative feedback very differently from those more concerned with avoiding failure and punishment (‘negatively wired’).

For example, a highly motivated goal-driven employee will take positive feedback as a validation and reinforcement of current behaviour. This creates a virtuous cycle whereby the individual tends to strive harder. Negative feedback does not tend to alter much for these individuals, unless attention is drawn to it with clear consequences.

The reverse is true of those who fear failure – negative feedback spurs them on to try harder while positive feedback tends not to have much impact on their motivation levels. They often feel that they have ‘escaped’ any retribution they feared.

Responding to negative feedback by those who are ‘negatively wired’

“Ouch – that hurt! I’d better try harder so it can’t happen again”

Responding to positive feedback by those who are ‘negatively wired’

“Phew – avoided failing, done enough, no need to try harder”

Responding to negative feedback by those who are ‘positively wired’

 “What? - there must be some mistake, so am not changing what I do”

Responding to positive feedback by those who are ‘positively wired’

 “I’m good, oh Yes! I can carry on carrying-on!”

So what does this mean for the facilitator giving feedback?

It means that feedback, when received by individuals without guidance or assistance from an experienced coach or facilitator, tends to just reinforce current behaviours (some desirable, some less so) - and have very little impact. The  facilitator needs to recognise these individual characteristics and think through, construct and position the feedback accordingly. Timing of feedback also needs to be considered and in our We think... article we suggest some suggestions about when to offer - and not to offer - feedback.

If you’re looking to train your Facilitators to provide better feedback positioned in a way which reflects the ‘wiring’ of the individual, talk to us about our Facilitator’s Feedback Course.

You may want to read more in the full We... think article which looks at the Impact of feedback - or explore more of our resources in our library of Resources.


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