Let’s Get Over the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

November 29, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Let’s get real about this.

The workplace is a beehive of feedback whether we ask for it or not. Things like facial expressions, gestures, silence, reactions, etc. give us a sense of how people are reacting to us and/ or our work. Moreover, when we receive direct feedback, much is offered very cautiously because most colleagues want to be supportive and friendly, after all everyone realizes that you will continue to work together after the feedback is delivered. All the more important that the feedback relationship be a productive one.

But feedback is marred by stigma. Employees are afraid all they’ll hear is negative feedback and criticism. Supervisors anticipate a defensive response to whatever they say and however they say it. As a result, feedback is not practiced or incorporated into the fabric of the organization and consequently one of the potentially most effective tools for performance improvement remains underutilized. Most people appreciate and need feedback to improve performance and advance their careers.

So, here are some quick tips to help you give and receive feedback. At the end of this article, I’ll point you to another resource to get an even more in depth understanding of feedback and its role in the modern workplace.

How to Give Feedback

Interpersonal conflict in work teams is inevitable.  Indeed, some level of tension works to feed creativity and motivation.  But when the behavior or attitude of a teammate is interfering with the team’s efficacy, you may find it necessary to provide some challenging feedback.

Below are some things that may be helpful in delivering feedback, especially when presenting difficult feedback:

1.      Choose the right place and time. Offer your feedback in a private, quiet place where your teammate won’t feel embarrassed or defensive. Feedback should be immediate or close to the time of when the task was completed.

2.      Focus on behavior. Discuss how current behavior is causing unintended results. Do not ever make the feedback about personality. That only generates a defensive response. Outline how current behavior is impacting the team as a whole.  Try to be specific and support your ideas with examples.

3.      Create an alliance. Ask permission to offer suggestions or ask if you can suggest possible changes in behavior or attitude.

4.      Mutual reinforcement. Try to explain how both of you might benefit from a change. Try to tie it to the larger goal or vision for the project or the organization. In other words, contextualize the feedback whenever possible to make it a greater learning opportunity.

5.      Make it two-way. Make sure that the exchange is a conversation, not an attack, a lecture, or a reprimand. Do this by asking questions and allowing the recipient to come to their own conclusions or to offer their own ideas.

6.      Be attentive. Give the other party plenty of time to respond and listen attentively. Remember, this is a dialogue not a monologue. Listen for areas of concern or areas where further development, training, and coaching may be needed.

7.      Check your language. Use the pronouns “I” and “We” rather that “you.”

8.      Check your tone. Don’t be the least bit condescending. Don’t get defensive or overly aggressive. Avoid aggressive language.

How To Receive Feedback

Let’s face it, if feedback is critical, it may hurt. We all say we want feedback, but some of us just want validation and not necessarily to know have some work to do. It hurts our ego to learn we are imperfect. Still, feedback must be embraced if we are to get better. Since we grow and learn from honest and constructive feedback, it is important keep in mind the guidelines below for receiving feedback effectively:

1.      Don’t be defensive. Even if the feedback is hard to hear, stay cool, ask honest questions, and process the intent of the feedback before you react.

2.      Listen for the unspoken message.  Sometime you have to read between the lines to find the true feedback.

3.      Don’t listen selectively.  Try to take in the whole of the feedback.  Don’t focus on one statement or one detail that rubs you the wrong way.

4.      Ask follow up questions.  To discover the underlying truth of the feedback you receive, you may have to ask questions that call for elaboration, examples, clarification, and details.

5.      Don’t blame the feedback provider. Unless they are just destroying you, assume an honest intention and recognize that giving feedback is also an art. Not many people are good at it.

6.      Don’t react emotionally. Receiving feedback can be nerve racking so try to stay relaxed.   If you hear something surprising, take time to think it through before you react.

7.      Be receptive.  Establish yourself as a person who will listen thoughtfully to feedback.  This doesn’t mean that you have to accept all criticism, it just shows that you are eager to improve and grow.

8.      Absorb and Act.  Not all feedback is useful but through honest introspection you can decipher those parts of the feedback that will help you find success.  Once you have done this, then set a course of action to incorporate it into your performance.

For feedback to be really effective, it should be woven into the culture of the organization. The ‘constant feedback workplace’ is one in which employees and supervisors learn to interact around feedback to improve performance and productivity. For a deeper dive in creating a feedback culture and making the most of employee feedback, see my recent article titled 6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard. In the meantime, use the incorporate the tips above immediately into your daily work because feedback is the most promising tool for behavioral change that managers have at their disposal.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.



©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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