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The Art of Advice: How to up your advice giving (and getting) game

December 7, 2022

How can we become better at dealing with negative feedback? Assistant Professor Rachel Ruttan weighs in on the fourth episode of The Executive Summary podcast.

Giving feedback is like a hand grenade. No matter how positive a spin you put on it, criticism is still hard to hear. So what can we do differently in tough conversations for a better outcome?

In the fourth episode of the Rotman Executive Summary podcast, Assistant Professor Rachel Ruttan shares best practices from her research on advice-giving, negative feedback and how people navigate difficult motivational tensions at work.

Ruttan says there are a few steps leaders can take to make difficult conversations less painful for everyone involved.

That includes establishing psychological safety in your team (making it clear that it’s safe to take risks, and that you support their career), using the well-known “sandwich method” to deliver negative feedback and asking more questions to understand the other person’s perspective on the problem.

“We spend a lot of our time imagining what other people think, and want to hear, and what the right thing is for somebody to do. But we also know from a lot of literature that we're actually really bad at perspective taking,” says Ruttan.

“You don't know what's going on in someone else's mind. So just ask them. Again, this sounds so simple, but I think it's something that we can forget to do along the way.”

Ruttan also shares examples from her research on advice-giving, from what we can learn from interactions between singers and coaches on the hit show, The Voice, to the performance enhancing effects of constructive criticism.

Next month on Rotman Executive Summary, Associate Professor Kevin Bryan explores the crisis in global innovation.

If you missed the previous episode with Professor Pankaj Aggarwal, tune in to explore how humanizing a brand or product can impact customer behaviour.

New episodes of the Rotman Executive Summary are released monthly on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Soundcloud. Desktop listeners can also tune in on Simplecast.

Would you rather read than listen in? Check out the full transcript of the episode here.

Written by Jessie Park | More Faculty Research Profiles »

Meet the researcher

Rachel Ruttan

Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management