Workplace feedback is increasingly recognized as vital to team success. But simply telling people to share more feedback might not bring the desired results. Instead, HR and organizational leaders should share guidelines for giving feedback that is effective and actionable.
In the workplace, feedback is any constructive advice or observations from a colleague. This feedback can come from a boss, peer, direct report, leader, or anyone else. And it can be shared in everything from a weekly check-in with a boss to a quick chat with a coworker.
Let’s examine the key benefits of workplace feedback. Then, we’ll dive into how to deliver—and ask for—excellent feedback.
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The Benefits of Workplace Feedback
Why is asking for workplace feedback so important?
- Without feedback, we don’t know how others view us. More specifically, we lack awareness of our human skills—and how they need to grow. We may also lack understanding of how our technical skills need to develop.
- Employees who have received meaningful feedback in the past week are nearly four times more likely than others to be engaged. They feel more closely connected to their team, which fuels motivation.
- Feedback from managers boosts satisfaction by igniting personal development. 72% of employees view feedback from their manager as crucial to their professional growth. Only 5% feel they get it.
Let’s move on to a few other key aspects of workplace feedback.
Workplace Feedback Pitfalls
Are there any potential drawbacks of workplace feedback? In certain cases, it may not bring the desired results. However, staying silent won’t improve the situation either!
In the following scenarios, even valuable feedback can get derailed:
- The recipient isn’t ready to hear it and reacts poorly. You can’t control their reaction, but you can set yourself up for success with the right strategies.
- You aren’t prepared to have a dialogue. Stating criticism and then walking away just leaves the other person feeling frustrated and unheard.
- The recipient feels demoralized because he can’t envision a pathway forward. A low performer in the wrong role, or without the right coaching, might check out even more.
However, most feedback conversations don’t succumb to these pitfalls. Rather than worrying about what could go wrong, focus on how to help the conversation go well.
Types of Workplace Feedback
Here are a few essential styles of workplace feedback. Every workplace needs a mix of all of them.
Appreciation builds morale and lets people know when they’re improving. Peers, leaders, and direct reports can all share frequent appreciation with one another. They can share gratitude mainly through informal conversations or by sending a quick note.
Leaders can also use both formal and informal ways of showing appreciation for employees’ work. For instance, they can recognize an employee at an organizational meeting.
Peer feedback mainly happens in informal conversations. In a traditional office, employees can share feedback whenever the chance arises. For instance, they may share suggestions in the break room or while collaborating one on one.
Through coaching feedback, managers provide guidance to employees on how to strengthen performance. Managers should have substantial insights on this topic. By monitoring performance over time, they’ll note clear areas for improvement.
Coaching feedback should happen in weekly one-on-one conversations with a manager. But to effectively coach employees, managers should share periodic feedback throughout the week.
360-degree feedback involves a formal review process. In 360 surveys, various people review an employee’s performance, sharing constructive observations. Once synthesized, this feedback provides a clear picture of how an employee is performing. A manager can then deliver the results to the employee.
This type of feedback involves suggestions from the employee to the organization. But just 63% of employees believe their company wants their feedback. To encourage people to speak up, senior leadership should ask for organizational feedback.
Anonymous feedback options can also make employees feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts. For instance, opinion surveys can help gather feedback on specific topics. Using these tools affirms that you want this feedback.
How and When to Give Workplace Feedback
Here are some tips that will help you make the most of feedback conversations. Share them with everyone on your team, coaching them on how to give high-quality feedback. Encourage people to share feedback with their managers and leaders—including you—as well as peers and direct reports.
Focus on the Benefits
People often imagine that feedback conversations will go poorly, when there’s no reason to think this. Why? They focus on the potential discomfort to the recipient rather than the benefits, explains Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School. Instead, focus on how it will help the other person grow.
Find a Private Setting
Choose a setting where you won’t be interrupted, if sharing feedback in person. Deliver bite-size feedback in a quiet hallway, a break room, or a coworker’s office, for instance. For more important matters, schedule a time to meet and share the feedback. Likewise, if you’re speaking remotely, make sure the other person is in a private setting.
Share “Fast Feedback”
“Effective feedback has an expiration date,” says Gallup. “Feedback should be a common occurrence—for most jobs, a few times per week. People remember their most recent experiences best, so feedback is most valuable when it occurs immediately after an action.” So, share feedback in real time or as soon as you are able.
If you get used to sharing feedback in the moment, it will also feel easier than waiting. When we procrastinate on sharing feedback, we think about everything that could go wrong. If we simply speak up, the conversation tends to feel more straightforward.
Use Workplace Feedback Tools
Instant feedback tools allow coworkers to share feedback in the moment—from any location. Through this bite-sized feedback, they can provide clear and relevant suggestions. They can also share encouragement or praise for a job well done.
Leverage Performance Management Data
Using performance management data, managers can improve the feedback they give direct reports. This concrete data on steps toward goals will complement their personal observations. Managers can also look at reports showing performance changes over time.
Focus on Behaviours They’ve Observed
Feedback shouldn’t be grounded in hearsay. Instead, the giver of feedback should share clear examples of behaviours they’ve personally witnessed. They should avoid statements that will increase defensiveness, like “Everyone’s noticed this” or “Other people have pointed this out to me.”
Explain the Impact
Maintain an empathetic tone, but make the impact of the behaviour clear. State how it’s affecting the team. And affirm that you believe in the recipient’s ability to change.
Listen to the Recipient’s Perspective
Allow time for the recipient to respond. In an ideal scenario, the recipient may want to talk through ways of modifying her behaviour. Listen to her ideas and make suggestions.
Discuss Potential Support
In some cases, simply pointing out a minor issue may be enough. But in others, the recipient will need support to change. You could commit to giving feedback over the next month, if he is open to this. If you’re the recipient’s manager, you can provide access to training, if needed.
Schedule a Follow Up
The other person may need time to think through the feedback in private. Talking with other people can also help them understand it. Having this time to think can reduce defensiveness and help them accept it. So, schedule a follow-up a week or so out.
Finally, share lots of appreciation on a regular basis. Sharing constructive feedback will then become much easier—and more impactful. Employees will thrive with strengths-focused feedback, which also builds trusting relationships.
How to Ask for Workplace Feedback
Feedback from coworkers, direct reports, and leaders is crucial to personal growth. But volunteering feedback feels hard for many people. By asking for feedback, you’ll gain valuable information that you would have missed out on otherwise. Here are some tips for asking for (and getting) great feedback:
- Share some questions in advance to get more detailed responses.
- Focus on how you can improve in the future rather than dwelling on what went wrong. The conversation will then feel more uplifting. Plus, the other person will be more willing to share their thoughts.
- Ask specific questions about areas where you feel less confident. For instance, “How could I improve as a collaborator on projects?”
- Share appreciation for the feedback, even if it was hard to hear. If you disagree, don’t push back; instead, take some time to think about it.
- Ask the other person to discuss your progress with you at a set time (one or two weeks later, for instance).
If you follow these tips over time, you’ll get great feedback that helps you continuously improve. And in the process, you’ll enhance your relationships.
Workplace Feedback FAQs
Here are a few common questions about sharing workplace feedback. Chances are, you’ve found yourself in one of these positions.
What if you’ve given a coworker feedback before, but they haven’t changed their behaviour?
Try switching up your approach. Did you leave out any of the strategies above? Put them to use and see if you get different results.
What if the other person gets upset when you share feedback?
If the other person pushes back, remain calm. Show empathy for their feelings and a genuine interest in their growth. Share clear examples to illustrate your points, along with words of encouragement.
What if your boss doesn’t give you feedback?
Take the initiative to set up one-on-ones with your manager. Email your manager a few questions or topics to discuss in advance to guide the conversation. Try to find another leader who can act as your mentor as well. Then you’ll receive consistent feedback from someone else that you respect.
Using these tips and strategies, you’ll encourage your whole team to share great feedback. Share these ideas throughout your organization so everyone benefits. In doing so, you’ll help teams and departments take their work to the next level.
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