“The Puppy Theory”: Giving Feedback Too Late

'The Puppy Theory' of Giving Feedback Too Late A common mistake we make in giving feedback to others is that we tend to defer corrective (negative) feedback. We put off criticism until the problem escalates or, as managers, wait until the employee’s performance review discussions. This predisposition is often rooted in the fear that negative feedback will offend the other and thus affect our rapport with the other.

Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz offers a ‘puppy theory’ on timing feedback:

I have the puppy theory. When the puppy pees on the carpet, you say something right then because you don’t say six months later, “Remember that day, January 12th, when you peed on the carpet?” That doesn’t make any sense. “This is what’s on my mind. This is quick feedback.”

Immediate Feedback is Most Useful

I have previously discussed that effective feedback has three aspects: (1) initiate a personal conversation and make sure the other is ready to hear it, (2) explain his behavior, and, (3) help him understand the consequences of his behavior.

Do not neglect or defer feedback. Address problems while they are small. Immediate feedback ensures that the other accepts your feedback, understands his behavior and attempts to correct.

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