Accepting and Giving Constructive Feedback

6 min read

We are all aware of the importance of giving and receiving constructive feedback. It’s a vital aspect of our work that helps us all develop personally and professionally. Unfortunately, the processes of both giving and receiving feedback can be uncomfortable, with many people not entirely sure how to approach the situation. So, how can we do this constructively and in a way that would benefit everyone involved? 

Receiving Constructive Feedback

Be Open and Accepting

Give the person a chance to speak and be willing to interpret what they are saying. Yes, feedback is based on an opinion as there are many ways to complete a task or do a certain job. However, you should keep in mind that you may hear some valuable information that will help you improve and do a certain task or aspect of your work more effectively. 

Understand the Message

Make sure you properly understand the feedback that is being given to you, especially before responding. Ask follow-up questions if something is unclear and repeat points back that you are sure you have interpreted correctly. Feedback is typically given in private, but if you are in a group environment and seeking feedback, be specific about the type of feedback you’d like to hear so that you are not taken by surprise.

Be Aware of Your Response

Research suggests that up to 93% of all communication is nonverbal. This means that your body language and tone of voice, speak volumes more than the actual words you say out loud. Be attentive both verbally and physically and mind the response you’ll have towards the person giving feedback.

“Be calm and collected. Focus on the issue at hand and not on the person delivering the feedback. Take your time to understand and do not let your emotions get in the way. Ask questions if required to understand better.” – Joao, Operations Manager

Self-Reflect and Create an Action Plan

Assess whether the feedback being given to you is valuable and what effect making the necessary changes will have on you and your work. If the feedback seems valuable, adequate, and is supported by facts, consider an action plan that will help you towards your improvement. What are the necessary steps you must take to improve based on the feedback you have just received? Most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance when necessary.

“Sometimes it is not easy to get feedback. The evaluation we give ourselves is not always the same as the one our managers give us. One should not take a negative approach and be disappointed in oneself. Feedback should be seen as a motivation for personal growth and improvement.” – Eleonora, HR Business Partner

Follow Up

Following up might take a variety of forms. It may mean simply implementing what feedback was suggested to you, or it may mean reevaluating yourself and assessing your progress. In other circumstances, you might have to schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss your progress or to resubmit your work that features the necessary changes. In any case, make sure to follow-up and show yourself and the other person that you are dedicated to improving.

Giving Constructive Feedback

Address the Behaviour and Not the Person

Always address the behavior itself and don’t make it personal. One method to do this is to address the behavior, explaining how you feel about it or what effect it has on a given situation, and finally sharing what steps might be taken to improve it. This strategy might help you address the issue without sounding accusatory or interpreting the person’s intentions unnecessarily. A good example of this would be, “I have noticed that you have been late to several meetings in the past week. I am worried that you might be missing important information and updates before you arrive. Could we please meet soon to discuss this?” 

Be Specific

A study done by Harvard Business Review showed that 74% of people who were given constructive feedback already knew about the problem and were not surprised to receive it. This indicates that in most cases, employees are aware of the issue and simply don’t know how to address it or fix it. Due to this, it is important to not only bring up the behavior but actually provide actionable steps on how to improve it in the future. 

“The main advice I would give is to be very specific in either positive or negative feedback, and in either case avoid vague and unclear sentences. You should focus on the problem and not on the person, by making it clear that the goal is to improve the current process, behavior, etc. Make yourself available to provide support and give practical advice. Sincerity, honesty, and leadership are key factors here. It’s also very important to sit back and attentively listen to what the person has to say. Feedback should be given to all team members and not only when things go wrong.” – Joao, Operations Manager

Be Realistic

Feedback should be given on aspects that a person can change and that are within their control. There is nothing more frustrating than receiving constructive feedback regarding something entirely unrelated to you. Furthermore, it’s important to avoid words like “always” or “never” as typically no one’s behavioral patterns are that consistent or extreme. 

Balance the Feedback

Though we often consider the “Sandwich Approach” to giving feedback most appropriate, it may be confusing to the receiver. Softening the blow by wrapping what you are actually trying to say between 2 nice statements about them, may seem like you are not owning the feedback or being transparent. The ultimate goal of giving feedback should be to help the person improve. Thus, a more reasonable approach may be to first discuss several positive qualities or behaviors of their work, followed by several points of improvement. Through this clear distinction of the two, you are able to clearly state what changes should be implemented, while also making the receiver feel like they’re being judged fairly. 

“When you want to give constructive feedback, you need to prepare good arguments. You need to be objective and give not just a negative impression but also the positive one. In my opinion, the most important thing to do is to give the rights direction on how the person can fix the problem.” – Eleonora, HR Business Partner

Participate in a Two-Sided Conversation

Lecturing someone on ways that they should improve can come off as an attack and the receiver may feel defensive and not absorb what you are trying to say at all. Instead, give the person the opportunity to share their thoughts and ask follow-up questions. Offer help and support, so that the receiver feels like they can come to you in the future for mentoring and guidance which will ultimately help them improve.