Over the years, I’ve seen an evolution in terms used for negative feedback.
The first term I remember hearing is constructive criticism. The problem was, most of the criticism wasn’t constructive, so it was really just criticism. Then someone decided to soften the term and call it constructive feedback. However, once again, it wasn’t very constructive, so it just ended up being criticism with a softer name. Additionally, if you took the term constructive feedback literally, it could apply equally to feedback on a job well done and feedback on a job performed poorly. Regardless of what it was called, hardly anyone looked forward to providing it and no one wanted to receive it.
A few years ago back I coined the phrase Performance Improvement Feedback. It wasn’t an attempt to invent another politically correct term for constructive criticism. I just felt that the phrase better represented what I wanted to give others and what I wanted to receive in return. Here’s why Performance Improvement Feedback is so great:
1. It helps the feedback provider approach the feedback in a more positive way.
When I think of criticizing someone, even constructively, I am already in a negative mindset. I know they’re not going to want to hear it and I don’t want to be the one to give it. However, when I think about providing someone with “Performance Improvement Feedback,” I feel more positively about what I’m about to say. What could be more positive than providing feedback to another person that helps them do their job more effectively, more quickly, or with less stress? When I think about providing feedback that helps you in these ways, I feel like I’m doing you a service, not criticizing you and I actually look forward to providing you this information.
2. It helps the feedback provider determine when and when not to provide feedback.
Anyone can criticize anything about another person, from their hair to their shoes and everything in between. However, when you limit your feedback to only that which will improve their PERFORMANCE, you’re leaving out unnecessary criticism. When you ask yourself,
“Will this information help improve this person’s performance?”, and
“Will this information help him or her do the job more quickly, effectively, or with less stress?”,
and the answer is “yes” then you know you should open your mouth and provide the information. If the answer is “no” then what you were going to say was likely just criticism and you should probably keep it to yourself.
3. It helps the recipient see the feedback as the gift that it is.
Imagine you’re at work and your boss, or a coworker, approaches you and says,
“I noticed that customer was really giving you a hard time. I have some ideas on how you can make those interactions less stressful. Are you interested in hearing them?”
Who would say no to that? If it were me, I’d actually be eager to hear what he or she had to say, I wouldn’t dread it. I would be receptive, not defensive.
Performance Improvement Feedback isn’t just a new term for criticism, it’s a change in mindset and approach for the both the feedback provider and the feedback recipient that will make it a more pleasant experience for both of them! Finally, don’t look at Performance Improvement Feedback as something that’s just for work. You could take the same approach to redirecting performance or behavior of your friends and family members as well.