How To Receive Feedback Effectively

July 28, 2016 - 5 minute read - Posted by

For many companies, implementing a more frequent feedback loop has been of high priority. While the time and energy it takes to make frequent feedback effective may be time consuming initially, this is well worth the efforts when employees are able to receive feedback effectively.

The Feedback Challenge No One Is Talking About

How to give great feedback is one of the most talked about challenges managers talk about. But great feedback is essentially not effective if not received well on the other end. This leaves the employee feedback problem no one talks about: how to get better at receiving feedback at work.

If the power of change is held by the receiver of the feedback, let us focus first on whether employees actually want feedback.

Statistically, employees desire feedback for a number of reasons. According to research from Zenger & Folkman, a leadership consultancy, the ratio of employees that want constructive feedback versus just praise is 3:1 respectively.

This sheds light on a few key challenges:

  1. Employees want constructive feedback but find it a challenge to receive.
  2. Managers do not enjoy giving feedback that is not positive.

The key to overcoming these challenges lies in how the feedback is delivered—and this doesn’t mean the popularized “feedback sandwich”.

Up to 92% of Zenger & Folkman’s research participants agreed with the statement: “Negative feedback, if delivered appropriately, is effective at improving performance.”

This counts towards 1) training managers to become straightforward in providing constructive feedback which prompts 2) employee openness to receiving more frequent constructive feedback.

Why It Can Still Be Tough To Give Feedback

Constructive feedback can be perceived as negative to managers and even offensive to employees. It’s inevitable that others may view criticism as judgement.

In Charles Jacobs book Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Supervisory Lessons From Brain Science, we learn employees compare feedback they receive with self values, hence making it more likely for the feedback to be altered and taken negatively.

PRO TIP: Effectively receive good feedback by overcoming negativity bias. Negativity bias is the tendency to place more weight on negatives, hence the “feedback sandwich” is not always the best approach. This is as important for employees receiving feedback as it is managers providing feedback.

Hacks To Receive Feedback More Effectively

David Rock’s SCARF Model approach to feedback is a great place to start:

Status: This is how we compare ourselves to the provider of feedback. More times than not, feedback comes from higher levels of management which might be taken more serious. Remind yourself this is merely a preception and value peer feedback at the same level.

Certainty: There can be a lack of certainty when it comes to whether a meeting will facilitate positive or negative feedback Be mentally prepared for both and understand it is nonthreatening.

Autonomy: Know that as the receiver of feedback, you are very much on the controlling end of how the follow-up goes. You take it into consideration and make changes you see fit at a later time.

Relatedness: Understanding we are very much similar to those providing the feedback and that you are both working towards the same goal is highly important. It creates a healthy dynamic where it’s easier to be receptive to constructive criticism.

Fairness: It’s difficult to swallow criticism you feel is unwarranted. Make sure to respond in a follow-up if you felt the feedback was unjust. Feedback should ultimately be a learning experience and less of a performance review.

Taking into consideration the ideas above should lower your level of negativity bias and sense of social threat when it comes to receiving constructive feedback. Remember it takes two to tango, and your part is to receive feedback effectively.

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