Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:

Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach

Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.

In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.

Do you offer feedback?Photo Credit: Raquel Biem

Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.

It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.

A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.

Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.

Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.

Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.

I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.

There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.

I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).

  1. Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
  2. Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
  3. Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
  4. Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
  5. If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
  6. Don’t do anything…still.
  7. Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
  8. Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
  9. If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
  10. Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr

Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.

10 Common Mistakes in Giving FeedbackCenter for Creative Leadership (includes excellent infographic)

Don’t Ask for Feedback, Unless You Want It Ron Ashkenas

Before Providing Feedback, Ask This One QuestionLelia Gowland

Giving Feedback to Your Boss – Like a BossThe Muse

6 thoughts on “Monday Morning Moment – Giving Unsolicited Feedback…Or Maybe You Don’t”

  1. I like this a lot! It’s something I find I need to do more. I have done it many times on social media but it’s a great practice for every day things. I’m also going to share this with Matt bc I think it’s great advice for the workplace too and in learning how to work with and handle people and their feelings and personalities! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Alicia. Would love to hear what Matt thinks. It’s challenging not to give feedback when it’s so fresh (and maybe too sharp) on one mind. Giving it a bit of time and reorganizing may allow for discovery that doesn’t require our take on the issue. Anyway, thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback. 🙂

  2. This is a tough one.

    It depends entirely on the quality of relational connection you have with someone. And, of course the motive and approach.

    When it’s a personal relationship, if someone responds defensively, throws up a wall and shuts you down before the conversation can begin, it could be insecurity or unresolved hurt but always reveals a lack of trust.

    I’m not open to feedback from anyone who only offers critical or derogatory commentary.

    Some only offer negative feedback because they’re incapable of acknowledge someone else’s efforts or perspective.

    In a work setting where idea sharing and brainstorming are vital for growth and enhancing processes, if individuals consistently respond negatively, it quells creativity and innovation. Even if an idea can’t be implemented, being herd is respectful and perspectives should be valued.

    People always say that being heard feels like being accepted and loved. So we must use our voices in partnership with God and primarily for edification and encouragement.

    Earning the right to speak and a voice of influence cannot happen where there’s a lack of honesty and vulnerability and commitment to the other’s wellbeing or growth or the benefit of the team, process or outcome.

    Few humans are confident enough to welcome feedback because the world (including our Christian brothers and sisters) are postured to find fault, quick to criticize, and anxious to point out subjective error. There’s no humility demonstrated by that.

    We all need Jesus to show us OUR hearts and gives us meaningful things to offer, words that bring light and life into situations. We need courage to take risks and endurance to keep trying when rebuffed. We need to recognize where we’re triggered, and apologize when we’ve over stepped.

  3. In a personal relationship, until I hear the “magic words”, “what do you think I should do?” (which is permission to give feedback), I don’t. In a work relationship meeting, same thing.

    I think about the Serenity Prayer: To accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference….

    For me, to accept that my feedback has not been asked for means it is not my place/time to give it; it is not my battle to fight.

    I understand there are exceptions, but I go by this as a general “rule of thumb”.

    It is terribly hard for me to not give unsolicited advice. I love to offer my feedback, unsolicited, most all the time. Just this week, I had to apologize to a friend because she mentioned that a condition she currently has, gout, has recently gotten worse. I became the Gout Expert of the Globe and told her to drink more fluids. (Uh, she knows that.) Realizing my advice was unsolicited, I apologized. She accepted the apology! She just needed to be heard.

    I am a slow learner but am learning slowly. 🙂

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