May 27, 2022

Giving and Receiving Feedback in the Workplace

By B&SC Career Services Team

Giving and Receiving Feedback in the Workplace

No matter your position, being able to give and receive effective feedback is an essential life skill. Both the listening and the speaking ends of feedback are crucial communication tools that every professional needs to possess.

What Is Effective Feedback?

According to hiring firm Indeed, for feedback to be effective, it must be useful to the person receiving it, heard and understood, and actionable. In order to be useful, it should be constructive and relevant. To be heard and understood, feedback must be communicated clearly. Finally, the person receiving the feedback should be able to act in a way that takes the feedback into consideration.

Why Is Feedback Important in the Workplace?

In today’s workplace, feedback is the primary tool that drives personal and professional growth. Feedback is more necessary today than ever before.

To understand why we say this, consider a classic blue-collar job: the assembly line worker. In a factory setting, there’s a distinct connection between performance and output. A worker must produce a certain number of parts per hour to be successful. Whether or not the worker is succeeding is easy for anyone to see, so feedback is quick and direct.

In the knowledge economy where most college graduates work, the line between performance and output is often indistinct. As a result, growth and self-reflection can be more challenging. It’s not always immediately obvious someone needs to make improvements.

This is why feedback in the workplace is so important. You more easily improve when a mentor or authority points out areas where growth is needed. And it’s the same for those who report to you: They need your feedback if they are to know how to improve.

How to Effectively Receive Feedback

There are two components to feedback, each of equal importance. To succeed in the workplace, you need to effectively receive feedback and give feedback. We’ll start with six strategies for receiving feedback effectively.

1. Ask for Feedback Often

People don’t always like receiving feedback, especially when it’s unexpected or uncomfortable. Once a person is on the defensive, it’s much harder to listen honestly to feedback.

If this is your tendency, you can break this negative cycle by proactively asking for constructive feedback. This way, you’re expecting the feedback when it comes, and you can be in a better mental state to accept the feedback and make needed changes.

The best times to ask for feedback are after the initial phase of something new or after completing a project or task.

2. Listen to the Feedback

Whether you’re expecting the feedback or not, you need to listen carefully to what the other person is saying if you want to benefit from the feedback. Avoid the impulse to assume you know where a person’s feedback is headed. You may begin formulating a response in your mind and stop listening well.

Listen carefully and evaluate what the other person is saying. This affords you the opportunity to grow, rather than simply be ready with a quick response.

3. Be Open and Receptive

It’s easy to shut down and stop listening when we sense that someone else is criticizing us, especially since feedback isn’t guaranteed to be accurate. But even if someone is unfairly criticizing you, there may be a nugget of wisdom that you can use – if you can be open and receptive.

Even if you end up concluding the feedback is invalid, be open and receptive in the moment. Be aware of your non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions, body posture, and body language. Before leaving, thank the person for their feedback. Save the analysis for later.

4. Ask Questions & Take Notes

Taking notes and asking follow-up questions is a great way to show interest and gain a deeper understanding. These are essential steps for growth and for demonstrating a willingness to grow. If your boss or other superior is the one giving the feedback, you’ll make a strong impression by asking questions and taking notes.

5. Process the Feedback

As previously noted, not all feedback is completely accurate or fair, and that’s alright. After the fact, take time to process what you’ve been told and do some honest self-reflection on whether the person is correct. If so, evaluate what steps you can take to change. If not, graciously move along.

6. Follow Up

If you can, follow up with the employee who provided the feedback after a short period of time. Ask them if they have noticed any improvement or have any further insights on the topic.

How to Effectively Give Feedback

It’s common to think of feedback as something that comes from the top down only. While it’s true that it is often supervisors and managers sharing formal feedback with their direct reports, it’s not the only situation in which feedback occurs. Even if you’re just starting out professionally, you might need to give your boss or team members some positive or negative feedback. With that in mind, here are four tips for giving feedback effectively:

1. Focus on Behavior, Not the Person

Most importantly, don’t attack the person-focus on the behavior. It helps to use language that focuses on the behavior, not the person’s core identity or assumed motives.

For example: “I’ve noticed that you have come in later than the agreed-upon arrival time three out of the past five days” is a much better place to start than “You’re a lazy person because you’re late and you’d better shape up!”

2. Be Specific

Effective feedback is actionable and specific. With our tardiness example, you could say, “I need you to arrive consistently at the agreed-upon time or at least give me warning when something unavoidable happens.” This provides a specific desired change.

“Can you tighten up your arrival time a bit?” is vague. The person might assume that arriving five minutes earlier is good enough when you’re expecting them 30 minutes earlier.

3. Be Timely

Address issues in a timely fashion, not weeks or months after they begin. The longer you wait, the more entrenched the negative behavior becomes. The recipient of your feedback could also become discouraged or feel defeated realizing that they’ve been doing something wrong for a while.

4. Be Purposeful

When providing feedback, it’s essential to have a clear and constructive purpose. You can couch feedback in terms of wanting to see growth in your staff member or show that your motivation is solving a workplace problem.

If the person receiving the feedback sees that you genuinely want to help them improve, you have a much better chance of achieving the desired outcome.

Start Your Journey Today

Whatever your position, whatever your field, clear communication is crucial. Learning how to properly give and receive feedback is just one aspect of effective communication. Becoming a clear communicator is essential to professional success, but it takes time, effort and guidance to get there.

At Bryant & Stratton College, we’ve been preparing our graduates for career success for over 170 years. We offer personalized career education that encompasses a range of both knowledge and skills, including the ability to speak and listen well.

If it’s time for the next step in your educational journey, check out what Bryant & Stratton has to offer and request information today.

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