The Key to Effective Feedback: Learn How to Receive It

September 6, 2013 - 6 minute read - Posted by

Many employees loathe negative feedback. It is never pleasant to have someone tell you that your performance is not satisfactory or your behaviours are not aligned with the organization’s core values. It is also not a great experience to be the one having to give others constructive feedback. You never know how the person will react and how a feedback can change the work relationship between you and that person. Many companies encourage open communication and train every employee on how to give effective feedback in real time. But they often forget about training employees on how to receive feedback. Often, employees do not know how to react to constructive feedback, and their defense mechanisms range from completely shutting down or starting an argument. Here are some mindful tips to keep in mind when you are receiving constructive feedback:

Ask for examples

Feedback is most effective when it is backed up with examples. For example, if a coworker says “I feel like your behaviour with the last customer could have been better”, ask for examples that support that observation such as “Can you tell me what I said or did that you think need more improvement?” By bringing up examples, you can then understand how the person interpreted your actions. Asking for examples also allows you to take constructive feedback less personally since the feedback is targeted at specific behaviours you demonstrated.

Take some time to think about the feedback

Receiving constructive feedback when you least expect it often makes you more defensive. Do not feel like to have to respond right away. If you are feeling defensive or upset, thank the person for the feedback and ask for some time alone for you to reflect on what had just been said to you. You want to be able to respond when you have time to think about where the person is coming from and whether the examples given are valid. Meet up with the person later to acknowledge that you have taken the feedback at heart or to ask for more clarifications if needed.

Embrace the uncomfortableness

It is uncomfortable to face someone who is giving your constructive feedback. It is also not a comfortable situation for the person having to give you feedback. I personally do not think that there is a point in time when you become comfortable giving or receiving constructive feedback. There is always the element of uncertainty about how both parties will react. Therefore, do not shy away from the uncomfortableness. The person who is giving you effective feedback is looking for your best interest; it is an opportunity for you to improve and be better at your job.

Try not to involve others

You receive a constructive feedback from a coworker and you think that it is an unfair remark. You start asking your other team members whether they agree with the feedback. Some of your colleagues are your friends. When you are encountering a frustrating experience, they want to be supportive and may just agree with your rationale so as not to upset you more. Be careful not to put the coworker who gave you feedback in a negative light. For example, instead of saying “Jane gave me constructive feedback about how I need to be on my smartphone less. Do you agree with her?”, ask “Do you feel like me being on my smartphone often affects my work?”.

Do not make it personal

It is often uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing to have someone tell you that you are not performing up to expectations. Some people may be more skillful at giving constructive feedback than others. In any cases, do not argue by giving the person feedback at the same time. Catch yourself if you start saying “Well, YOU need to ….” The focus of the conversation is about you, not the person giving you feedback. If you do have some feedback for the person, take some time to gather your thoughts before giving the feedback. You do not want your coworkers to think that because they gave you feedback that were not positive, you are getting back at them by pointing out that they need to improve as well.

Giving constructive feedback in real time is meant to support each other in a team and in an organization. Your peers and supervisors want you to know that you have room for improvement and that they believe by giving you feedback, you will understand where you need to focus more on, making you a valuable asset to the team. Remember that everyone deals with receiving constructive feedback differently. You know yourself the best; be aware of your behaviours and feelings associated with you being frustrated and upset when someone gives you feedback. It takes time to learn how to receive feedback.

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