Etiquette Around Giving And Receiving Unsolicited Feedback by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

As an individual in a leadership, management, or team member role, there may be times when you feel the need to provide unsolicited feedback to someone in your organization. There may also be times when you are given unsolicited feedback from a colleague, executive, or even a team member or employee.

Finding a way to diplomatically handle both giving and receiving unsolicited feedback is not always easy. However, having a strategy in place for both helps avoid awkward or even disruptive issues while at work.

Giving Feedback

The first step in giving unsolicited feedback to someone else in any organization is to consider if the feedback is essential at this particular point in time. If it is essential to provide the feedback to the individual, be sure to make it free from any words that are judgmental or make assumptions about the other person.

It is a good idea to ask if you can provide feedback or advice. This should be done in a way that provides the individual the option to say no or not right now. For example, you might say, ” I would like to find out more about how you compiled this report. Do you have some time to talk and look at some options moving forward?”

It is always best to consider the individual and work with them where they are comfortable. Typically, providing unsolicited feedback in front of others is never a good idea, especially if you are aware this may be an area of sensitivity for the other person.

Be prepared for the person to say they do not want your input or advice. If this is the response, honor their wishes and keep the suggestions, insight, advice, and feedback to yourself.

Receiving Unsolicited Feedback

While you may be respectful of other people in the workplace and request to provide feedback, honoring their wishes not to continue if they say no, do not expect everyone will use this approach.

In most cases, people providing unsolicited feedback are most likely trying to help or trying to provide options to make something easier. It is always helpful to consider the advice or feedback from that perspective rather than jumping to the conclusion they are trying to undermine you or “show you up.”

If someone provides unsolicited feedback, even if you have said “no,” consider simply replying with a “Thanks, I will consider that.” This not only ends the conversation but it prevents the risk of escalating the issue if you are feeling hurt or attacked.

Finally, consider the source of the feedback. If it is from a person in a management or leadership position, consider following up and getting more information if you are not clear. If the feedback is from a colleague, consider the benefits of using the feedback or not using the feedback, and be comfortable and confident in proceeding forward based on this reflection.