What is so scary about giving someone feedback?

Why is giving feedback so scary?

Invariably, when speaking to a client about managing an employee with poor performance, I will ask: “have you spoken to them about this?” And almost to a person, the answer is usually: “no”. Followed by a series of elaborate explanations as to why not.

So, what’s so scary about giving some feedback?

Feedback is scary

Inevitably, I think is more about our own fear of how the person will react.

  • Will they be angry with us?
  • What if they blame us for not providing sufficient support.
  • What if it affects our friendship or relationship or working relations in the office.

All these thoughts and more crowd out the logical reason for providing feedback to the person.

And so, often, no feedback is given.

I don’t want to do the hard things -but I want you to act as though I have

And although we may not have given the feedback, we often act as though we have. We expect the person to get better. To do things differently and then get annoyed when they don’t.

By allowing our own fear of giving feedback to get in the way- we do the other person a great disservice. We don’t allow them to choose to develop, grow, change or get better.

Just quietly – it doesn’t reflect too well on us either. Think about it. If you’re the person who spends an entire meeting with someone and doesn’t tell that person they have spinach stuck in their teeth. It just makes you a bit of an ass.

Giving performance feedback is no different. The other person can’t choose to do something different if they don’t know that you perceive their current performance to be less than optimal.

Quick tip

Giving feedback is a skill. It can be learnt and honed, like any other skill.

The key is to practice regularly, and to have some simple but effective models to guide you.

This is a great tip: Watch Dan Pink’s  98 second video: “How to Give Better Feedback in 19 words”.

Key Takeaways

  • Ask yourself – is the situation/behaviour etc really going to change if you don’t do anything?
  • Look deeply into what explanation you’re giving yourself as to why it’s not the right time to give feedback (or whatever the particular reason is). Sense check these excuses  reasons with someone you trust who is external to the situation.
  • Think about what opportunities there are to practice the feedback skill. What tools and models do you need?


As always, if you’d like to get in touch – you can click here.

If you’d like to read any of the 250+ blog posts on this site, you can click here. Here are a selection specifically on giving feedback.

If you’d like to buy one of my books, you can click here.

And if you’d like to sign up to permission to dream programme, you can click here.

See you next time.

Have you got questions, or would like to take the next step? Simply get in touch for a friendly, obligation-free chat, and/or :

Sign up to my free mini course :
– Be A Better Boss In 7 Days

Check out my year-long accountability program:
– Permission To Achieve Your Dreams

Find out more about Your Leadership Story Retreat

Read my books:
– Enterprise Agreements – Made Easy
– Do What You Say You’ll Do

Want more?

If you’d like to receive my musings on all things leadership and culture related and beyond, pop your email address in below. To say thank you for sharing, you’ll immediately receive a free chapter from my book, and a free infographic on the ten tools of leadership.

1 Step 1
FormCraft – WordPress form builder