Clumsy Feedback Is a Poorly Wrapped Gift

Roger Schwarz

Published on the Harvard Business Review website

People on your team offer you gifts – not just at special occasions, but all year. These gifts aren’t tangible, and they’re not wrapped up in lovely boxes with beautiful bows. These gifts are nicely wrapped in a compliment, or, more often, not-so-nicely wrapped in a criticism or complaint.

Effective leaders open these gifts, regardless of the wrapping, to learn what they are doing that’s negatively affecting others on their team. For example, when your boss says, “You did a great job on that presentation,” the compliment is the wrapping. You can go past the wrapping and open the gift to learn more by saying something like, “Thanks. I’m curious, what did I do that was great? I want to make sure to keep doing it.”

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Originally published April 2014