Feedback Should Have Your Back

In the previous blog, I wrote about the importance of process improvement. This involves constantly trying to make the processes you use at work better. Process improvement requires gathering data, or feedback. In fact, receiving (and providing) feedback is just as crucial on an individual level. You need to hear others’ impressions of your strengths and areas of growth to continuously develop your skills. In this post, I’m reviewing expert tips on how to give and receive feedback in the workplace.

Why Feedback Matters

It’s important to be aware of how much we shy away from requesting feedback. This Gallup study found that even employees who really want feedback are afraid to ask for it. That’s because it can feel scary to expect or even hear criticism when you’re trying your best. Anyone would rather receive praise or even an award. Still, it’s also true that most of us want to grow in our professional development. To do so, we need to be open to hearing ideas from our leaders and peers.

Another element holding us back from requesting feedback is the remote work environment. As I noted in my post about workplace trends in 2023, remote work is here to stay. With it come the hardships of communicating across screens. Still, as this article on feedback in the remote work environment points out, feedback is even more important when you’re remote. That’s because it helps to ensure you’re on the same page with coworkers. Of course, that is useful in any workplace. Among other benefits, coworkers’ comments on our work also help us find opportunities for development and boost our productivity.

You should also recognize the benefits of proactively asking for feedback instead of just waiting for it to hit. They’re outlined in this article based on this study. Researchers found that we have less anxiety about feedback when we’ve asked for it directly. Here’s one way asking directly helps you out. Realize that you can give clear boundaries for what kind of comments you’d like to hear. Imagine asking your boss, “What did you think of my presentation yesterday?” The answer to this question won’t be overly general. It won’t dredge up mistakes from last year or make generalizations about your personality. Instead, you’ll get useful information specific to that one presentation.

Receiving Feedback the Right Way

With that said, let’s talk about ways to get good feedback. One great method is the 360-degree feedback process, as described in this Forbes article. This involves garnering input from lots of different people who interact with you at work.

It’s best to collect responses anonymously, so try to use an outside tool if possible. The Leadership Circle Profile is one tool many organizations use. Next, request participation from your supervisors, direct reports, peers, and anyone else you can think of. When you do ask for participation, be clear about how long it will take people to respond to questions. Also, provide a deadline. This helps people plan their time in advance. After you’ve received responses, work with a coach or HR professional to analyze the data. Use it to build an actionable plan for change. Finally, don’t forget to express your gratitude to all those who contributed their thoughts.

If you’re not doing such a complete assessment, what’s the best way to request feedback? This video from HBR provides some great ideas. Choose a time when the other person will be able to focus on your request. Ask in person if possible. Also, frame your request with context. What do you hope to gain by hearing this person’s perspective?

2 professionals high fiveOf course, be prepared for any kind of feedback. If it’s positive, say thank you and record it! It’ll help you to be able to refer back to positive feedback in the future. On the other hand, if you hear critique, don’t just file it away. Say thank you and try to create a plan of action together. If you need clarification about expectations, ask for it now. Be sure you know what you’d need to do to improve.

Doling It Out

You now understand why you need to hear feedback and how to ask for it. What about when you’re on the other end of things? Many people hesitate to share their honest thoughts, especially critical ones. This Forbes article explains some common obstacles and how to overcome them.

Know that it’s normal to feel uncertain of whether you’re justified in providing criticism. That’s likely linked to some standard impostor phenomenon. In addition, people often fear that people won’t like them if they share criticism.  Besides that, you might be worried that the other person’s communication style is too different from yours. Maybe they won’t receive your words well.

To make sure your feedback lands and makes a positive difference, there are a few steps you can take. First, schedule your discussion to be in person or via video. Give your full attention to the conversation to convey respect. Next, be direct. Provide specific examples of any issues to make sure you’re on the same page. Stay professional, but be clear about the consequences of this person’s behavior. For instance, if this person’s presentation style is confusing, that can hinder the team from successfully achieving goals. Conversely, note that when they improve their presentation skills, they’ll help the whole team out. At the end, leave time to hear the person’s thoughts. Try to brainstorm solutions collaboratively. Before you end the conversation, note the strengths they brought to this conversation. For example, you might applaud their commitment to engage in self-reflection and improve their skills. If you follow this formula, you have nothing to fear. People will appreciate the time and consideration you’ve taken to share feedback with them.

Feedback in the Remote Workplace

As mentioned, all of the above becomes more challenging in a remote work environment. Therefore, this article provides tips for sharing feedback that are specific to this setting. For instance, you need to be extra clear. Without the nonverbal cues you’re used to in person, your words carry even more weight than usual. On the same note, it’s crucial to be sensitive in how you frame your comments. Focus the conversation on supporting the other person and their success. Instead of just noting issues, it can help to offer constructive suggestions. This can also help mitigate confusion about what kind of growth you’d like to see.

After a virtual meeting, best practice is to follow up with notes. One idea you might like is having the other person draft them. This will give them more of a sense of ownership of the goals you’ve identified together. It will also help you evaluate whether you were fully understood. Then, schedule regular opportunities to touch base going forward. According to this study from Gallup, those who receive feedback more regularly are more likely to feel motivated in their work. In the world of remote work, you can’t just drop by someone’s desk with a compliment during the day. That’s why it’s so important to schedule time to follow up.

Coming Up: Mid-Year Reviews

Now you’ve got all the ins and outs of giving and receiving feedback at work. I hope this will come in handy as we approach the end of the second quarter. That’s when many organizations conduct mid-year reviews. Make sure to schedule time for these meetings on the calendar and arrive with constructive feedback. If you’re a leader, don’t forget to ask for feedback too! The more you hear from your coworkers, regardless of your role, the better you’ll be able to continue your development.