Giving feedback : how to get your language right (Changeboard)

By Dr. Wanda Wallace


I often hear managers say that they are giving feedback designed to help their direct reports improve their performance and progress careers. Yet, they do not usually get the results they had hoped to see and sometimes they get anger. 


Likewise, I hear from people I coach – particularly women – that they are being told they are “overly aggressive” or that they should be “more strategic”. They feel confused and unsure what these things actually mean. To a woman, especially with a male boss, this kind of feedback can sound sexist and vague to the person receiving it. The general belief among women is that men can be very aggressive and it isn’t a noted problem, but if women are even slightly aggressive, they are criticised. Getting the language right makes all the difference in how the message is received and acted upon.


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