Article: How to give negative feedback to creative people

Employee Relations

How to give negative feedback to creative people

Feedback - positive or negative - is something to be communicated to your subordinates. Here are some pointers.
How to give negative feedback to creative people

Giving negative feedback is always tricky. You don’t know whether they will take it in a constructive manner or forever hold a grudge against you. Especially, when it comes to giving feedbacks to people who churn out creative work, it becomes ten times more difficult. The reason being that the assessment of any kind of creative output is largely subjective in nature. What one person loves, another may not even like or approve of. Artists, writers, designers, photographers and many such others who fall in the category of creative people identify very closely with their work. When they present their work to you, it’s as if they are presenting a very close part of themselves to you. Imagine getting a negative feedback on that. Hurts, doesn’t it?

Whether you like giving feedback to them or not, and whether they take it constructively or not, it is an essential part of your work to stay aligned to your work and organisation. Here are a few tips that can help you do it right and get you out of that catch-22 situation:

Begin on a positive note

The golden rule while giving anyone feedback is to always start on a positive note. You may not like the result in front of you, but keep your emotions and personal taste aside and you will be sure to find that something praiseworthy. If nothing else, the time and effort the person has put in deserves appreciation. Therefore, start on a positive note and then move on to giving them the feedback you had in mind. The sandwich method of feedback where one starts with something positive, moves to negative or constructive feedback, and then ends with positivity is the best method. 

Don’t get personal 

Always focus on the work and not on the person who has produced the work.  Instead of saying “You’ve got the design all wrong” or, “The text you’ve written for the ad is bad”, make your feedback focus on the work. Say “The design doesn’t isn’t quite following the brief” or, “The actual message behind the ad is not very clear in this text. Maybe we should word it differently?” Your choice of tactful words while giving feedback will go a long way in keeping your relationship with the creative person on a good note and also help them improve. 

Ask for the rationale behind the output

The reason why they presented a certain output to you is because they interpreted your brief in a certain manner or made certain associations that led to the result currently in front of you. Therefore, it becomes imperative for you to ask the person the intent or reasoning behind their work before you straight away get into giving them feedback. Once you know the rationale behind their output, you will get a new perspective on the brief – one that you may or may not agree with, but a new and different perspective, nevertheless. Remember to keep an open mind when they give you their reasons. You may realize that a certain approach that you were initially not in favor of suddenly makes sense to you too. 

Give actionable feedback

Another important thing to keep in mind is to give creative people actionable feedback. Just saying that “the font used in the design is not good” is not useful. Tell them why you think that the font used is not good. In fact, give them facts and figures if you can that supports your feedback. If a certain font is not completely legible or is not soothing to the eyes, the person needs to know that. Giving general feedback doesn’t help. Become specific so that they can take action. If you can provide the creative person with examples of what you have in mind, it’s even better! They will have a clearer idea of what exactly is it that you are looking for. 

Provide feedback in writing

You may feel that doubles your effort, but it isn’t. After giving an in-person feedback, it is important that you make a note of all the points discussed and send them across to the other person on email. This helps in two ways – one, when the person has re-worked on the brief, you have a reference to check if all the points that were discussed have been actioned or not. Second, the other person may not always remember everything. This way they can refer to your email while working again on the brief. 

Now, would you agree that it is not so difficult to give creative people a feedback? All you need is some tact to get it right! 

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Topics: Employee Relations

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