When Feedback Turns Toxic: Avoid These 10 Mistakes At All Costs

Effective feedback is a cornerstone of leadership and personal growth. When given constructively, feedback can be a powerful tool for improvement. However, feedback can quickly turn toxic if not handled properly. Here are ten common mistakes that can poison feedback and hinder personal and professional development. As an executive leadership coach I understand the importance of avoiding these pitfalls for fostering a healthy and growth-oriented environment.

Deliver Feedback When You’re Upset: One of the most common mistakes is delivering feedback when emotions are running high. When you’re upset, it’s easy to let frustration or anger color your feedback. This can lead to harsh words and an unproductive conversation. Instead, take a step back, calm your emotions, and approach the feedback discussion with a clear and composed mind.

Dodge the Issue with Vague Feedback: Vague feedback is a surefire way to leave the recipient confused and frustrated. When feedback lacks specificity, it’s challenging for the individual to understand what needs improvement. Always strive to provide concrete examples and details when giving feedback. Specificity is key to making feedback actionable.

Give Feedback and Walk Away: Effective feedback is a two-way conversation. Giving feedback and then disengaging from the conversation can leave the recipient feeling unheard and undervalued. Instead, create a space for open dialogue, encourage questions, and be willing to listen to the other person’s perspective.

Declare Sweeping Generalizations: Using sweeping generalizations, such as “you always” or “you never,” can escalate a feedback session into a confrontational exchange. Avoid making broad statements and focus on specific behaviors or instances. This helps keep the conversation constructive and focused.

Deliver Negative Feedback Where Others Can Hear: Publicly delivering negative feedback can be embarrassing and damaging to an individual’s reputation. Avoid discussing sensitive feedback in front of others. Instead, choose a private and confidential setting to maintain respect and dignity.

Exaggerate the Situation: Exaggeration can undermine the credibility of your feedback. When feedback is overly dramatic or exaggerated, it can be difficult for the recipient to take it seriously. Stick to the facts and avoid embellishing the situation.

Provide Feedback Infrequently: Infrequent feedback leaves individuals in the dark about their progress. Waiting for annual reviews or significant milestones to provide feedback is a missed opportunity for growth. Regular and timely feedback is essential for continuous improvement.

Deploy the Sandwich Technique: The sandwich technique, where positive feedback is placed between negative feedback, can be disingenuous. It’s crucial to be honest and transparent when providing feedback. Instead, address both positive and negative aspects separately and directly.

Use Humor: While humor can diffuse tension, it should be used cautiously in feedback conversations. Sarcasm or jokes about a person’s performance can be hurtful and counterproductive. Maintain professionalism and empathy in your feedback.

Avoid feedback: Perhaps the most detrimental mistake is avoiding feedback altogether. Avoiding necessary conversations deprives individuals of the opportunity to learn and grow. Embrace feedback as a tool for improvement, both for yourself and those you lead.

Feedback is a vital part of personal and professional growth, but it can quickly turn toxic if mishandled. Avoiding these ten common mistakes ensures that feedback remains constructive and productive. By providing feedback with empathy, specificity, and a willingness to engage in dialogue, you can foster a culture of continuous improvement.

Lead From Within: Embrace feedback as a catalyst for growth, and watch your leadership and your team engage and thrive.


#1 N A T I O N A L  B E S T S E L L E R

The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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