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Jan Johnston Osburn
Jan Johnston Osburn Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities
8mo Washington, DC, United States Story
#Leadership: Is it Feedback, Criticism, or Plain Ole’ Nagging?

Is it Feedback, Criticism, or Plain Ole’ Nagging?  

I once worked at a place where everything – and I mean everything – was a “feedback moment.”  I heard “Did you give them feedback on that?” at least twenty times a day.

No.  No, I didn’t.  Not everything is a feedback moment!  Sometimes an old-fashioned conversation works wonders. 

They didn’t get it.  They were pleased to be a culture that gave swift feedback. Let me tell you that there is a blurred line between feedback and criticism because sometimes feedback becomes nothing more than nagging.

Can you handle issues without being critical?  

That’s a struggle for many of us.  It impacts our home life as well as our work life.  We want great relationships but we don’t always get the results we desire and we have to do something about it. That’s where feedback comes in.

Sure, the term feedback can be negative or positive but too many times it’s seen as criticism.

What’s the difference?

Criticism can be:




Assuming another’s motives




Given with a sense of superiority

A conduit for defensiveness

If you’re not careful, that’s exactly what feedback feels like to your employees. Too often with feedback, we focus on past deeds and past behaviors.  We place an emphasis on what the employee did, rather than who the employee can become.

The point of giving feedback is to encourage the behavior that you want to see repeated or to change something that isn’t going well.  If you do this by focusing on the past, you’ll risk turning feedback into criticism.  

But with a quick tweak of your mindset and staying focused on the future, you can help your employee see a new path forward.  You’ll put the focus on how they can do things differently the next time, rather than making them feel bad because of something that happened.  

You can’t be a leader without being in a position where you have to give corrective feedback.  However, you can empower an employee to change their behavior by involving them with a solution.   This will help them understand the ways they are responsible for their own success.


When you have these conversations, make sure you:

  • Focus on your intention to help.
  • Be more interested in helping, rather than casting blame.
  • Be cognizant of how the employee shines, rather than where they lack luster.  Understand how they add value rather than drowning your thoughts in the negative.
  • Focus on the future, rather than on the past.  Look to the past only for lessons learned but having a future focused on the positive will enthusiastically involve your employee in their own career development.

And while we’re at it – does it have to be called feedback or can we retire that word at work?  The word conjures up more negative images than positive images.  Maybe we can have regular dialogues and conversations with our employees and involve in solutions and changes that need to occur.  Maybe?

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Jan Johnston Osburn
Mogul Influencer | Career & Life Coach | Helping People Turn Dreams into Realities

Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]

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