CHAPTER 12

Giving Difficult Feedback

by Monique Valcour

OVER THE YEARS, I’VE ASKED hundreds of executive students what skills they believe are essential for leaders. “The ability to give tough feedback” comes up frequently. But what exactly is “tough feedback”? The phrase connotes bad news, like when you have to tell a team member that they’ve screwed up on something important. “Tough” also signifies the way we think we need to be when giving negative feedback: firm, resolute, and unyielding.

But “tough” also points to the discomfort some of us experience when giving negative feedback, and to the challenge of doing so in a way that motivates change instead of making the other person feel defensive. Managers fall into a number of common traps ...

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