Career Development

Giving and Receiving Feedback: Definitions and Examples

February 24, 2021

At some point during your career, you might need to give or receive feedback on the job. When you do it effectively, giving and receiving feedback is useful to a person's or company's growth. In this article, we discuss what effective feedback is, how to give it, how to receive it and examples to use in the workplace.

What is effective feedback?

Effective feedback is a way of giving input that can be positive (such as a compliment), negative (such as a corrective measure) or neutral (such as a general observation), but it is always useful to the receiver. It provides recipients with insight or suggestions that contribute to desired outcomes. If you want to give effective feedback, you should aim to be supportive, encouraging and specific on the direction that's needed to change, improve or continue actions and performance.

Related: The Importance of Giving Employees Constructive Feedback With Examples and Tips

Why is giving and receiving feedback important in the workplace?

Giving and receiving feedback in the workplace is important to change behaviors, improve productivity and evaluate performance. Employees and their managers need to know what they are doing well and areas in which they could do better so they know what to keep doing or what to change. The idea is to challenge yourself and your colleagues to keep performing at a higher level.

Other reasons to give and receive feedback in the workplace include:

  • Inspiring growth: Employees gain a new perspective when receiving feedback on how their behaviors impact those around them.
  • Giving people purpose: Feedback helps people feel useful and valued by reminding them what they do matters.
  • Improving employee engagement: According to one study, employees are more likely to get involved in the workplace if they receive feedback at least once a week.
  • Nurturing and solidifying working relationships: Communication channels are open when giving or receiving peer-to-peer feedback, which can help to resolve problems before they become unmanageable.

How to give feedback in the workplace

Knowing how to give effective feedback is an important skill for the workplace. Here's how to give effective feedback:

  1. Know your purpose. To keep things positive and constructive, it helps to have a good reason to give feedback. Be aware of the result you are hoping to achieve and provide feedback from a place of genuine concern, desire to coach or guide your colleague and commitment to support and watch them grow.

  2. Focus on behavior and not the person. Feedback should target behaviors and not how someone looks, thinks, who they are or what they believe. It's important to avoid making comments directed at personality, intelligence or other personal identifiers and instead keep the conversation pointed at the situation needing discussion.

  3. Focus on how the behavior affected you. The important thing is to only address how you feel or what you like or don't like and avoid speaking for others or about your opinion on what their intentions might have been. For example, you can let the person know that when they did or said something, it made you feel a certain way.

  4. Ask questions. By starting the conversation with questions, you invite the other person into the discussion. Asking questions also gives you an opportunity to assess their understanding of the situation and hear their point of view.

  5. Be specific. Using specific, detailed examples helps the receiver to create a clear understanding of what the situation is and what behaviors they need to change or continue. Also, when you are specific, the conversation focuses on the exact problem or circumstance that needs addressing.

  6. Be timely. Feedback is most useful when you give it as soon as possible after a certain behavior occurs. Addressing issues earlier on offers transparency and gives someone the chance to immediately put in place necessary behaviors to improve efforts moving forward. Additionally, issuing timely praise reinforces positive performance.

  7. Be aware of the moment. The best time to deliver feedback is not when emotions are high. It's best to wait for a moment when the receiver is more open to hearing feedback and you are in the right emotional state to give it in a constructive and helpful manner.

Related: Best Practices for Giving Constructive Feedback

How to receive feedback in the workplace

Learning how to receive feedback is just as important as giving feedback to continue your growth within the workplace. It is a skill that you can develop with practice. Here are some ways to accept constructive feedback:

  1. Ask for feedback often. If you ask for feedback, it eliminates the surprise when you receive it, so you can be more open to using the advice given to learn and improve. Ask open-ended questions from those you trust and who can accurately evaluate your work performance. Some opportune times to ask for feedback might be at the start of new employment and after you complete a project, give a presentation or attend or host a meeting.

  2. Be receptive to constructive feedback. Try to use all forms of feedback positively. Think of ways to change your behavior that might lead to better results. If you are unsure of where to start, ask for suggestions.

  3. Take time to process the feedback. You might need some time to reflect on what you heard before you can make the necessary changes. Try to listen intently to the feedback given and process it thoroughly by writing it down and using it to create goals. This tactic is also useful in tracking your progress for improvement.

  4. Be willing to grow. Think of feedback as an opportunity to grow rather than criticism about your current performance. Growth helps you to improve, advance and achieve goals.

  5. Own your mistakes and move forward. Success involves learning from your setbacks, too. Acknowledge that you made a mistake, forgive yourself and decide to try things differently moving forward.

  6. Be thankful for the feedback. Thank the person who offered you feedback to show them you not only listened and understood, but you also accept what they've said. Try to share your ideas for improvement when needed to assure them that you really plan to consider their advice and work on implementing changes. By voicing your appreciation, you show others that you welcome feedback, and they will be more willing to approach you in the future.

Examples of constructive feedback

There's a method for giving feedback used by many businesses called the Rosenberg Nonviolent Communication method that includes the following four steps or ideas:

  1. Observations: This is what “I” observe and what “you” observe that does not contribute to the other person's well-being.
  2. Feelings: This is how “I” feel and how “you” feel based on observations.
  3. Needs: This is what “I” need and what “you” need that influences your feelings.
  4. Requests: The requests should be clear and include concrete actions without demanding.

The thought behind this method is to clearly express how you are without blaming or criticizing or to empathetically receive input about how you are without hearing blame or criticism. In practice, it might look like the following:

  • Giving feedback: “When you come late to meetings, it makes me feel frustrated. I need to feel respected and appreciated as a colleague, and the company needs you to be reliable. Would you be willing to keep a daily calendar to ensure your punctuality to important meetings?”

  • Receiving feedback: “When I do not ensure that you have the resources needed to complete your tasks, I understand you feel discouraged and it slows your production. You need to have all the necessary tools to do your job well. Would you like me to order you some additional supplies to complete this project?”

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