The Do’s and Don’ts of Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback

The Do’s & Don’ts of Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback

Feedback is the lifeblood of personal and professional growth in the workplace. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, effective feedback can be a catalyst for improvement. It is essential for fostering a culture of continuous learning and development. 

However, when mishandled, feedback can be counterproductive and damaging. In this blog, we will explore the do’s and don’ts of giving and receiving feedback at work. The following tips will help you navigate this crucial aspect of your leadership journey. 

The Do’s of Giving Feedback

Providing effective feedback to employees is a crucial part of leadership. When done well, it can build trust and improve performance. Here are five tips for ensuring feedback sessions are a positive experience for your team.

  1. Be Specific and Constructive. One of the most critical aspects of delivering feedback is being specific about the behavior or issue you want to address. Instead of vague statements like “You need to improve,” provide concrete examples and actionable suggestions. For instance, “I noticed that you struggled with meeting deadlines. To improve, try breaking tasks into smaller steps and setting clear priorities.”
  2. Focus on Behavior, Not Personality. When giving feedback, remember to critique actions and behaviors rather than making it personal. Address the specific actions that need improvement without making judgments about the individual’s character or abilities. This approach helps create a more constructive and less defensive atmosphere.
  3. Use the Feedback Sandwich Sparingly. The “feedback sandwich” technique involves framing negative feedback between positive comments. This method is often overused and dilutes the impact of constructive criticism. Instead, provide feedback as needed, and when it’s genuinely positive, let it stand on its own.
  4. Choose the Right Time and Place. Timing is crucial when giving feedback. Find an appropriate time and private setting for sharing feedback. This will allow the recipient to absorb and process the information without feeling embarrassed or exposed.
  5. Seek Permission First. Before launching into feedback, ask if the individual is open to receiving it. This demonstrates respect for their autonomy and readiness to engage in a meaningful conversation.

The Don’ts of Giving Feedback

  1. Don’t Make It Personal. Avoid making sweeping judgments about the person’s character or intentions. Instead, focus on specific behaviors and their impact on work. For example, don’t say, “Your response to Mike’s email was horrible. You are so immature.” Instead, say something like,” It’s clear that Mike’s email upset you. I know you are passionate about this project, but we must keep our communication with other departments professional if we want others to take our opinions seriously.”
  2. Don’t Be Vague. Vague feedback lacks clarity and direction, making it challenging for the recipient to take actionable steps toward improvement. Provide concrete examples and recommendations. Set clear improvement KPIs or a specific, quantifiable goal to clarify expectations and track an employee’s progress. 
  3. Don’t Overload with Criticism. Giving too much negative feedback at once can overwhelm and demotivate the recipient. Balance constructive criticism with positive feedback and encouragement. However, remember that positive feedback should be sincere, or it will feel inauthentic to the recipient. 
  4. Don’t Use Loaded Language. Be mindful of your choice of words. Avoid using accusatory or judgmental language that can trigger defensiveness. Be careful with statements like “You always” or “You never,” as it is usually an exaggeration. Stick to objective, non-emotional language.
  5. Don’t Assume Motives. Avoid making assumptions about why someone acted a certain way. Instead, ask open-ended questions to gain insight into their perspective and motivations.

The Do’s of Receiving Feedback

Great leaders must also be open to receiving feedback. It’s not easy to be the one receiving feedback, but even high performers can learn from knowing where they can improve. 

  1. Stay Open-Minded. Approach feedback with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Remember that feedback is an opportunity for growth, not a personal attack. Be aware of your body language as well. Avoid crossing your arms in front of your chest or slumping in your chair. 
  2. Ask Clarifying Questions. Seek to understand the feedback by asking questions for clarification. This demonstrates your commitment to improvement and respect for the giver’s perspective. It will also prevent misunderstandings, making the conversation more constructive. 
  3. Reflect and Self-Assess. Take the time to reflect on the feedback received. Consider how it aligns with your goals and areas where you genuinely need improvement.
  4. Express Gratitude. Thank the person providing feedback, regardless of its nature. Expressing gratitude shows that you value their input and encourages future constructive feedback.
  5. Set Goals for Improvement. Use feedback as a tool for setting specific, actionable goals for self-improvement. Discuss these goals with your manager or colleagues to ensure alignment.

The Don’ts of Receiving Feedback

  1. Don’t Get Defensive. Avoid becoming defensive or dismissive when receiving feedback, even if it’s challenging to hear. Defensiveness can hinder growth and create tension in the workplace. 
  2. Don’t Interrupt or Argue. Allow the giver to finish providing feedback before responding. Interrupting or arguing can derail the conversation and create a hostile atmosphere.
  3. Don’t Take It Personally. Remember that feedback is about actions and behaviors, not your worth as a person. Separate your identity from the feedback to maintain healthy self-esteem.
  4. Don’t Ignore It. Ignoring or disregarding feedback sends a message that you’re not interested in self-improvement. Take every opportunity to learn and grow from the input you receive. This includes positive feedback! Don’t disregard positive comments; they provide valuable information about your strengths and talents.  
  5. Don’t Overreact. Avoid overreacting to feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. Stay calm and composed to foster a productive conversation. If you become emotional, ask for some time to consider the other person’s perspective and return to the discussion at another time. 

Feedback is an essential aspect of personal and professional development in the workplace. By following the do’s and don’ts outlined above, both givers and receivers of feedback can create a positive and constructive feedback culture that promotes continuous growth and improvement. Remember that feedback is a two-way street, and effective communication is key to making it a valuable tool for success in your career.