Caring Enough to Give Tough Feedback

One of the skills you need to learn as a manager (and as a leader) is how to give tough feedback. I find it interesting that people have so much trouble doing it.

I also find it interesting that managers who are also parents often approach giving tough feedback differently at work than they do at home (I’m a parent of two teenage boys). They rarely hesitate to give tough feedback to their kids each day, but at work they hold back.


I suspect that managers are reluctant to give tough feedback when they don’t truly care about the person they need to give feedback to.

Almost nothing in the world is more important to a parent than their kids. They are a reflection of us. (We can argue about whether that is a healthy way for parents to think, but it’s a common sentiment.) We envision the adults they can be, and we do everything we can to lift them up, teach them lessons, and point them in the right direction. We care about them, deeply. We give them tough feedback all...the...time.

Then we go to work, and instead of seeing potential in the people who are struggling, we see them as a problem. Instead of envisioning what they could become we envision making them go away. And we get lazy. We don’t care enough to give them the feedback they need to succeed.

So, step 1 to learning how to give tough feedback is to learn how to truly care about the person. Step 2 is to envision what they can be and challenge them directly to make it happen.

One of the most rewarding parts of managing is witnessing people blossom into amazing professionals and knowing that your direct and caring feedback helped them take the steps to get there.

Want to learn more?

Kim Scott explores these themes in her talks and writings about Radical Candor. Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute will help you learn about why we fail to truly care, and how to challenge people directly the right way.