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Judgment vs. Feedback

Part of a manager's job is to give feedback to employees to help them meet and exceed expectations for performance. This article provides some distinctions between judgment and feedback.

Part of a manager's job is to give feedback to employees to help them meet and exceed expectations for performance. It should be easy, right? Just share your perspectives with the employee and they will improve, grow, and develop. As easy as this concept sounds, most managers struggle with giving feedback that is constructive, productive, and received the way it was intended.

Why is feedback so hard to give? One reason is because managers often don't really give feedback; they make judgments. Let's draw a distinction between judgment and feedback. Judgments include opinions or conclusions. Feedback is a presentation of the facts. Here are some other distinctions:

Judgment                                               Feedback
Opinion                                                   Factual
Conclusions                                             Evidence
Conceptual                                              Concrete
Emotion-driven                                       Free of emotional influence
Provided for the benefit of the giver       Provided for the benefit of the receiver
Intended to influence change                  Intended to influence growth

Often, when we intend to provide helpful feedback it is heard as if we are passing judgment. And, when a judgment is lobbed, resistance usually results. An essential principle of a Painless Performance Conversation is to recognize this important difference. Here are some examples:

Judgment: "You didn't prepare enough for that important presentation."

Feedback: "There were critical details and statistics that were not included in your presentation. For example..."

Judgment: "You are not carrying your weight in the office."

Feedback: "You have completed three case files this week. Your peers are completing an average of six case files per week."

Judgment: "You did a great job today! Nice work!"

Feedback: "Your ideas for solving the Jones complaint were innovative and effective. You gave the customer several options, all of which were appropriate given the situation."

Judgment: "Many of your assignments are not getting done thoroughly."

Feedback: "This month there were four projects that were not submitted by the deadline that we agreed upon."

Feedback is the tool great managers use to encourage self-assessment and accountability. It takes some thought but the results are more meaningful to the employee and more productive for the manager. The last time you gave an employee feedbackBusiness Management Articles, was it really feedback or was it judgment?

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Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:


We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as Marnie Green's name and contact information are included.

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