Giving and Receiving Feedback
The art of giving and receiving feedback is an important element of our everyday dialogue. Whether at work with colleagues, or at home with friends and family, this is a constant part of life and something we can always be improving. This is why employees crave any kind of feedback. They want positive reinforcement of their successes and redirecting comments for their areas of improvement.
According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 75% of respondents believed that feedback at work is crucial but only 30% of respondents actually receive reviews of their performance. Maybe this is because the nuances of giving and receiving feedback can often have an impact on whether or not this dialogue is successful. But just because the conversation might be difficult doesn’t mean it should be avoided. There are steps both sides can take to ensure the conversation goes well and has good outcomes for everyone involved.
How to Give Feedback
Giving feedback is perhaps more difficult than receiving. Because the giver is in a position of power, the dynamic is more delicate. It’s crucial that the person receiving feedback feels both validated and comfortable during the conversation so that they are capable of actually hearing the giver’s insight.
- Create a safe space.
Not all work environments facilitate easygoing relationships, especially in the case of a manager providing feedback to a lower level employee. This type of situation is already full of anxiety for the person you are giving feedback to. For example, summoning an employee to your office for a conversation may feel too formal and can instead give the impression that this person is being punished. If possible, ask them where they’d feel comfortable meeting and always keep the current context in mind. You don’t want to give a criticism in the middle of a meeting or add unneeded stress if the person is already swamped with tasks.
- Be positive.
Always give positive feedback along with negatives. Although 92% of employees do believe that negative or “redirecting” feedback can be helpful if executed in the right way, framing is important. This conversation isn’t about who’s doing what’s right or wrong but rather about empowering your coworker towards success. Find something to say that is encouraging.
- Be specific.
Always cite specific examples of behavior that need improvement. Generalizations tend to be confusing. For example, rather than saying “You need to be more talkative in meetings,” you might consider something like, “I like the way you think and I’d really like to hear at least one opinion from you in each meeting moving forward.” This type of feedback is specific, actionable, and positive. Your coworker knows now exactly what barometer is in place to meet your expectations moving forward.
- Keep emotion out of it.
Though you may be upset with a coworker, it’s best to resist the urge to use mean or aggressive language. It’s not productive to tell someone how stupid their actions were—even if they were. Instead, begin with a question. Ask them what their perspective is and allow that to guide your conversation. This gives them more ownership of their growth. It also allows you the time you may need to cool off and reevaluate the situation through your colleague’s eyes.
- Be immediate.
Don’t wait too long to offer feedback. If too much time passes between the event and the conversation, the receiver might not understand why you’re providing feedback. Or they may feel that you’ve been harboring resentment towards them, rather than being direct. Instead, try to give feedback as soon as possible so people can grow and move on.
How to Receive Feedback
No matter what position you’re in at the office, you’re likely to encounter situations where you are required to receive feedback. Receiving feedback is about checking your ego at the door and realizing that your peer or manager is trying to help you be more effective on the job. Here’s how you can gracefully receive feedback and take steps to make changes.
- Stop your first reaction.
Not every giver of feedback is well-versed in the art of dialogue and sometimes these conversations can be tense. Even if you’re feeling caught off guard by the feedback, try not to take it personally. Instead of leading with your first reaction—which may be negative—try to understand the benefit your colleague is pointing you towards, like less stress or better skills.
- Say thank you.
A great way to get the conversation off to the right start is to begin by saying thank you to the giver. The purpose of feedback isn’t to make you feel bad, but instead to empower you to do better. Ultimately, even if the conversation is difficult, the opportunity to have it is better than silence. Demonstrating gratefulness helps the giver know that you are open to grow and change where needed.
- Listen for understanding.
Instead of hopping on the defensive, take the time to fully listen to the giver’s thoughts and explanation. When they’re finished, repeat back to them what you heard. This shows that you’ve been listening and that you clearly understand the situation. It also allows them to correct any misperceptions if they came across the wrong way or weren’t clear.
- Ask questions.
After both parties are on the same page, ask questions to decode what your next steps are to improve. Seek specific examples of the behavior that needs improvement. For example, if a manager tells you that you talk over other people, you might ask about any recent instances. Then you can begin to seek solutions by asking what actions you can take to address the feedback.
Both giving and receiving feedback requires a professional to take their emotions out of the equation and think about actions from a perspective of efficiency and ethical behavior. Sometimes it’s tempting to tell someone all the reasons they were wrong without giving any insight into how to do better next time. Other times, a criticism or piece of advice doesn’t seem totally justified and colleagues get defensive. In both these scenarios, compassion and patience are required to keep conversations productive. We hope these tips help you work on both and get better in these situations as you encounter more of them.