So you’ve been invited to provide feedback to a colleague as part of a 360 feedback process. How honest should you be?

Can’t I just soft pedal it, Liane? Can’t I hint at things that are really annoying me and let them read between the lines? Can’t I just hope that the boss is going to give it to my teammate right between the eyes? Um…no.

Each time you withhold or downplay feedback about destructive behavior, it provides the offender with false confidence. There is no greater challenge than trying to address bad behavior with a person who has a 360 full of 4/5 scores to justify their approach.

If you’re asked to provide feedback, you need to be totally, completely, honest.

What do I Mean by Honest?

I mean you should answer the questions as accurately and candidly as possible. I mean that if you know of something that is getting in the way of your colleague adding their full value as an individual or as a member of the team, then it is your obligation to share it with them.

I DO NOT mean that you should be brutally honest. (For the full rant on my views about the term brutally honest, click here.)

You’re Worried

I know, you’re worried that being really frank is going to be hurtful, or that there will be repercussions that come back at you.  Both fears are justified and it is a risk you take. It’s not nearly as big a risk as leaving your teammate with a big giant blind spot or leaving your team with a loose cannon, but it’s a risk.

Don’t let your anxiety stop you from giving feedback; channel it into making your feedback useful and digestible.

A Few Guidelines

1. Use the range of scores. If you’re going to be honest about the areas that are a 2/5, make sure you give credit for the areas that are a 4 or 5/5

2. Use the open-ended comments to explain extreme ratings. “I rated you a 2 on collaboration because I have repeatedly heard you say that it’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. I think this is adversely affecting our relationship with the corporate office”

3. Make comments as specific and behavioral as possible. “There were a number of instances throughout the year where I shared my concern about you copying our boss on emails about my guys not performing. When this continued, it made me feel like you are out to get me rather than having my back.”

4. Use when-then statements instead of absolutes such as “always” or “never.” “When you talk to someone else about me without talking to me, I don’t have an opportunity to address your concerns.”

5. Give credit for positive intent if you think it exists. “I get the sense that you’re trying to lighten up our team meeting with humor, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, I think it crosses into being personal and uncomfortable for the junior team members.”

Ideally, you are providing concrete feedback in real time and saving the themes and big areas for development to the 360 process.

Getting feedback can be about as much fun as getting a cavity filled at the dentist. But imagine the predicament you would be in if you just let the decay go unchecked. If your teammates have holes, do your part to help them fill them. You owe it to them to provide honest and useful feedback.

Go fill out that survey…honestly!

Further Reading

When Feedback Triggers Backlash

Unconventional Wisdom on Constructive Feedback

How to Deliver Feedback