If someone goes to the trouble of asking you for your advice, they probably want to know what you really think. It’s true that there are people who want you to tell them what they want to hear (“Do I look fat in these jeans?”) but coddling is rarely asked for in the workplace.
Still – harsh honesty seems callous. Sometimes, it’s downright mean. While you can certainly choose to be blunt – a little thought can mean the difference between thoughtlessness and consideration.
Being honest does not mean that you can’t also offer support. If their presentation lacks pizzazz, suggest a few things that might make it livelier. If you think that hiring an ex-room mate spells trouble on the horizon, suggest a few candidates with no previous connections to anyone you know. The goal is to help and to make the outcome better in some useful way. Telling someone that their choice of location for the offsite meeting is a poor one isn’t really helpful.
The challenge with feedback is that it’s just their opinion. While it may be accurate – it’s still a point of view. Their point of view
I’ve gotten my share of feedback. Not all of it easy to hear or requested. Sometimes I think that getting up in front of people for a living and providing training or making a presentation is an odd way to spend my time. Not only do people often confuse me (the messenger) with the content (the message), many think that evaluation forms are really invitations for “open season” on any and all opinions that they want to share.
When I spoke to a conference about the role of women on corporate boards, I was told that my shoes did not really go with my suit.
When I conducted a program on leading employees through a major organizational change, I was informed that I should serve bagels instead of danish.
After presenting a training program about understanding how to motivate a multi-generational workforce, I was advised to include more examples using country music.
There are often a few people who can’t wait to let me know how I can improve my program, enhance my appearance, correct my thinking, and handle participants or audience members more effectively. I also am told to make the room more hot, make the room more cold, get more comfortable chairs, be less funny or be funnier. One person advised told me to be taller.
I sometimes wonder if I look especially open or appear especially inept – people are so eager provide feedback whether it’s asked for or not, welcome or not, needed or not.
I always thank the feedback giver for their candor. I add that they have given me something to think about. And I DO think about what they’ve said.
It’s certainly their two cents — and always tells me a great deal about them.