7 Tips On Overcoming the Awkwardness of Receiving and Giving Feedback

May 14, 2014 - 7 minute read - Posted by

Improper guidance and feedback are the single largest contributors to incompetence in the world of work” – Gilbert.

Feedback has become a crucial aspect for many organizations. Whether it is within the company such as peer feedback, or outside the company such as customers’ feedback, leaders have realized the importance of encouraging feedback in order to grow a successful business. Employees are trained on how to receive and give feedback. Managers are taking feedback from employees and their peers as part of performance management process. Organizations are making sure that open communication is well engrained in every business process.

Although I have written multiple blog posts on the benefits and how it is crucial for a company, I still found myself struggling with the concept of giving and receiving feedback. “Who were you to tell me how to do my job properly?” or “Who am I to tell you how to do things differently?” were two examples of questions that created defensiveness from my part. Many articles will give you pointers on how to receive and give feedback but I found some of these points too general. I know there are many employees out there who are also struggling with it. Therefore, I wanted to share my 7 tips on how I overcame my uncomfortableness with giving and receiving constructive feedback.

  1. Lead with a question – Nothing is more frustrating than a peer giving you feedback out of no where. Start by opening up with a question such as “How do you think you are doing on this specific matter?” It gives the person context to start with, but most importantly, the person feels included in the conversation. You do not want the person to feel attacked by sharing the feedback without giving a context. Remember that feedback should be a conversation, not a one-way communication outlet.
  2. Be part of the person’s entourage – Are you in a position of authority or part of the person’s day-to-day work circle? I have seen feedback sessions turned personal when feedback was exchanged between employees who had never worked together on a project before. Constructive feedback is productive when the feedback is coming from someone you trust – professionally and personally. Start practicing giving feedback to people you trust. It is also an opportunity for you to ask them for feedback in terms of communicating.
  3. Distinguish between the types of feedback – Be careful to clearly separate feedback that reflects your need from feedback that is for the improvement of the person. Always take time to dig deeper to the roots of the feedback. For example, telling someone “You are not involved enough with the team” may actually mean “I would like to have more opportunities to bring the team together”. Remember that feedback is to help others improve and not an outlet for you to vent.
  4. Be mindful of your own state – I have given harsh feedback when I was angry or frustrated. And unfortunately, you cannot take words back. The same applies when receiving feedback. If you are feeling flustered and defensive from the incoming feedback, acknowledge the person. Then ask for a 5-10 minute to recompose yourself. Take a break, go for a walk. After you relax and are more aware of your own composure, re-engage with the person. Never walk out on the person.
  5. Do not hold others to your expectations – Sometimes, you practice over and over on how to deliver constructive feedback. When you finally share the feedback, the receiver, the latter is frustrated, angry or unresponsive. Do not expect that everyone will receive the feedback as well as you will. Every person has different ways of handling constructive feedback. It always hurts to have someone tell you that you have room for improvement. Be empathetic. Change takes time.
  6. Be careful when bringing others in the feedback – I remember this incident when a colleague gave me feedback, and to reinforce her point, she name-dropped another colleague of ours. It made me feel cornered, two against me. The worst is that my relationship with the other colleague turned sour because I felt like she backstabbed me and was not honest to give me the feedback face to face. Try your best to keep the feedback session between you and the person.
  7. Be part of feedback sessions – Recently, at 7Geese, we have decided to implement a “critic session” through different phases of launching a feature. The team gathers together and provides feedback on what we can do better. I think it is a great opportunity for every one of us to practice receiving and giving feedback. Each member’s goal is to point out as many flaws and improvements as possible in order to make our product the best. These feedback are not targeted at individuals, but at the sum of our works. These sessions allow me to give feedback and gain the trust of my team members.

To encourage your employees to be open to the process of feedback, it is important for you to create a culture of open communication across all members. One of the best practices I have seen is the CEO and executive team members proactively asking for feedback from their employees. Leading by example, these seniors leaders are showing that feedback is valued and heard at all levels of the organization. I would love to hear any tips you have to overcome the hurdle of giving and receiving constructive feedback. As we move towards workplaces where continuous and real time feedback is key, we should embrace the uncomfortableness of sharing feedback with the end goal to build a successful company.

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