Giving Generic Feedback: Debrief

This video illustrates a situation where a junior executive is required to provide his superior, someone two levels senior to him, with feedback. In this case, he had sent her two emails seeking certain documents which are critical for him to complete a task he has been entrusted with.

However, both his emails have gone unanswered.

Notes on Giving Feedback

In this video, you observed the executive using the AOA model to provide Mrs, Mehra, his superior, with feedback about a lapse on her part, in this case, to respond to his request for certain documents.

AOA is an acronym for:

    • Action: the error, lapse or behaviour being addressed)
    • Outcome: the fallout or consequence of the error, lapse or behaviour
    • Alternative Action: what you would prefer the person to do instead

He begins, though, by setting the context for the dialogue or feedback. He says “This is about……. A& B… critical…… project”

He then points to the lapse on Mrs Mehra’s part, that is her failure to share the documents with him. *This is the A, Action, in the AOA model.

Next, he states the OUTCOME of her lapse, in this case, the fact that he would be unable to meet the deadline for the MIS reports. He further explains that it takes a full day to complete the MIS report generation exercise and that the deadline is only twenty-four hours away. *

He ends by articulating the ALTERNATIVE Action sought. In this case that the documents be sent to him no later than five pm the same day.*

How Providing Feedback Using the AOA Model Helps

The AOA model of providing feedback represents communication devoid of ambiguity. It is clear, concise, yet complete. It leaves no scope for ambiguity on the behaviour or lapse being addressed, the outcome of this behaviour or lapse and what is the alternative behaviour or action sought.

Providing Feedback: A Few Points to Consider

There are a few points to bear in mind when providing feedback.

Avoid Labelling:
Labelling is attributing someone’s behaviour to an underlying cause or motivation, which may or not be correct. It assumes that you know why they behaved in a particular manner. It could also refer to the action of describing someone or something in a short word or phrase.

In the video, had the executive said something like “Seems like you are too lazy to respond to my email” it would have constituted labelling on his part.

Labelling presupposes that you know why someone is behaving in a particular manner. It is accusatory. And you may possibly be right in your analysis of the motivation behind the person’s behaviour. However, you stating that aloud will mostly result in the recipient of the feedback feeling belittled and will thus retaliate, rather than respond positively to your feedback. Labelling also makes you appear smug and/ or possessing a ‘holier than thou’ attitude.

Labelling exacerbates rather than defuses a situation.

So, limit your communication to the action or the pattern of behaviour observed.

Avoid Generalizing
“You always do this.” “You never do this.”

These statements are examples of Generalising in action. Generalising refers to making broad or general statements about something or someone by drawing inferences from a single case or from a small number of cases.

For example, you see someone commit an error once or perhaps a few times, and you make it sound like this is how they always behave. Generalising leads to people feeling attacked or treated unfairly. “What do you mean by ‘always’ / ‘never’? You are only looking at the one time that I failed and are ignoring the many times that I have done things correctly” will be the usual retort. They will go on to defending how they are usually different from how you put it. They will reject your feedback because of the generalisation in your statement.

So, state what you observed and/ or learned, and how many times this has happened. Like in the video, the executive states that Mrs Mehra has failed to respond to his emails twice.

Avoid closed body language
Lastly, avoid any closed body language, for example, crossing your arms, sitting at an angle to the person and pointing at them.

Rather, maintain an open posture when providing feedback and maintain a respectful tone of voice and demeanour.

In Conclusion

Use the AOA technique, which stands for Action – Outcome – Alternative Action sought, when providing someone with feedback. Avoid labelling, generalisation and closed body language. Using the lessons contained in this video will ensure that people feel less threatened by your feedback, but rather be more accepting of it.

.