An F Word

An F Word

An F Word..or two

The first F word is great for covering all manner of excuses and criticisms, covering up cowardice, and providing a seemingly acceptable answer to uncomfortable questions and conversations.

The second F word is offered once a year, like it or not, and maybe more if you are an effective manager or a bully. It too covers all manner of sins and can get you off the hook and put someone else on it if you have the positional power and/or the bravado. If used for good, the F word can help someone grow, develop, and shine; if used for evil; it can leave a mark that can impact a person for months or even years, to come. And because this F word is so malleable, not getting receiving it at all should be considered getting it.

Have you guessed what the two F-words are? Fit and Feedback! Two words that can are called upon for recruiting, performance reviews, promotions, terminations, and for a few even on the dating scene.   What’s my point and why do I hope you care?

At some point in your professional career you will either receive feedback or provide feedback – many will get to experience both sides of the feedback coin.   And at some point, you may hear the words “You’re not a fit” or more delicately, “Other applicants are a stronger fit.” Another experience is to hear nothing but the crickets, which is now also considered feedback…likely about your (lack of) fit.

Again, what’s my point and why should you care? Because lack of feedback and the unclear message about fit highlight our inability to discuss sensitive topics – which might result in positive or negative actions. Let’s start with feedback. I get it, providing feedback can be difficult, especially if you’ve never been trained how to deliver relevant information effectively. It is also difficult to emulate a manager/leader who either doesn’t provide feedback at all or does so in such an obscure way you’re not quite sure what they actually wanted you to learn or consider. Was the feedback good, bad, constructive, relevant, timely, or helpful? Maybe. Or perhaps the feedback was ‘you’re not a fit for this position/promotion/project’. What are you supposed to do with that feedback? How do you improve your ‘fit’ if you haven’t a clue where you might be lacking in the first place?

Phew! Glad I got that off my mind. Now, let’s look at our F words one at a time and see if we can get better at using them at the office.


Feedback isn’t a new concept, and there is always a ‘new and improved’ way to deliver it. First, I don’t think feedback should be delivered, like it is a bill in the mail. How about we share/give/provide feedback? Second, if you aren’t giving feedback genuinely with the intent to help someone then don’t do it. People can tell if you are sincere and they will be more receptive to your feedback if you are. Third, like most things in life, you need to practice providing (and receiving) feedback; it is a skill. If you don’t want to provide feedback then don’t target a career as a people manager – giving feedback should be a routine practice for people managers since part of a managerial role is dealing with those pesky people issues.

Since I’m a roll with my own cheery feedback on feedback, I’m going to throw in one more comment for your consideration: There are aspects to every job that you might not like and might not be good at – this won’t change. This leaves two options:

  • Stagnate – remain where you are in your career and avoid the things you don’t like
  • Grow – learn how to develop a weaker skill, ask for help, practice, and give yourself a break. Nobody knows how to do everything. Nobody.

I hope you chose to grow and if you did, following are steps to consider when planning to share your feedback and how to receive feedback well.

  • What is the key message you want to communicate?

Giving feedback is a learned skill
Sharing/Receiving feedback can be uncomfortable
Feedback is essential for my staff (and me) for professional development

  • Rehearse your key message – it helps with lessening anxiety
  • Feedback is best when it is specific – provide the details to answer ‘why’ questions
  • Focus feedback on the action or task, not the employee’s personality
  • Positive feedback can be public, negative feedback is always private
  • Be honest. Sugar coating a message won’t help anyone in the long run


My experience with feedback as the giver and receiver has been a mixed bag of effectiveness. When I receive positive feedback, of course, I’m pleased, and when I receive constructive (negative) feedback, I am appreciative. It took me some time to be appreciative instead of hurt, angry, or defensive. I think many people are afraid to provide constructive feedback because they don’t want to hurt the recipient and/or they are nervous about the reaction. Makes sense – most people don’t wake up thinking how can I hurt someone today? Nor do they relish the thought of having someone freak out because they don’t like what was said to them.

Try to remember that when you provide negative feedback civilly and respectfully, how the other person reacts in their responsibility. Some of the most important feedback I’ve received has been hard to hear – I didn’t like it and it stung. I had to work at listening and not arguing or disagreeing angrily, or ignoring the message. It was on me to use the information to my benefit and remember the person who delivered the message wanted me to be successful.

So next time an opportunity for you to share (or receive) feedback arises remember why you are participating and how you can develop your skills and that of your feedback partner.

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