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How to Give and Receive Feedback

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Tamara is a seasoned copywriter with a unique blend of legal expertise, business acumen, and a passion for writing.

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As a seasoned HR professional with over 20 years of experience, Keca is an expert in various aspects of Human Resources.

How to Give and Receive Feedback

How to Give and Receive Feedback

Imagine the corridors of the tech giant’s headquarters and a girl visibly shaking while making her way to her team leader. There are two options: either she got terrible feedback, or she got feedback that completely changed the project’s perspective and helped the entire team to perform better. We’ve all been there; giving and receiving feedback is never easy, and people usually have strong emotional reactions to it. So, how should you handle it?

Her story mirrors a powerful statistic: 75% of employees believe timely and constructive feedback significantly improves their performance. Yet, only a fraction regularly receive it. This shows us that even though it’s appreciated and beneficial, feedback is often mishandled. It’s time to change that point of view. 

Understanding Feedback

Think of feedback as your personal GPS for growth. This navigation can help you find your destinations in life and at work. How? 

Feedback is like having a mirror that reflects back your image, including all your strengths and some of your weaknesses. It’s not an easy process to look at that mirror or hand it out to others, but it can be a nurturing guide that helps us tap into our full potential.

Defining Feedback 

At its core, feedback is information about what effect certain behavior has on others. 

While most people see feedback as instant criticism, it’s not always about something that needs to be fixed. Most of the time, feedback is celebrating achievements and strengthening good behavior. This assumption is true for both workplace and personal life.

In the office, feedback is the secret sauce for career growth if you give and receive feedback in the right way. On a more personal level, feedback is an amazing tool for self-discovery and evolution. A study by Gallup supports our claims and shows us that employees who receive regular feedback from their upline are 3.5 times more likely to be engaged at work. As you can see, feedback is powerful stuff that can impact staff morale and efficiency. 

Psychological Aspects of Feedback 

Feedback often causes an array of emotions, so navigating this world is like walking through a psychological minefield. You can expect anything from warmth of gratitude to the chill of defensiveness. 

Getting into the emotional balance is the key. If you are providing feedback, you need to find a way to be honest without knocking the wind out of someone’s sails. And for the receiver, there is the challenge of not seeing feedback as a personal attack, which can trigger a knee-jerk defensive response. So, we’ll focus more on balance in the sections that come.

Biases in Feedback

Even though most of us want to see the world clearly and believe that we have a realistic image of reality, our lenses of perception are tinted with biases. And this smudge often leads to poor feedback giving and receiving.

Ever heard of confirmation bias? It’s like having blinders that make us spot only what we already believe, missing out on the bigger picture. And then there’s the halo effect – when our overall impression of someone glosses over the nitty-gritty of their actions. Tricky, right? We have to have a full understanding of perception before we can deal with giving and receiving feedback.

The Role of Culture in Feedback

Culture plays a massive role in the feedback game.

In some corners of the world, direct feedback is like a hearty handshake – expected and respected. In others, it’s more about reading between the lines, where nuances and subtleties speak volumes. Understanding these cultural frequencies is crucial for feedback that hits the mark without stepping on toes. 

In the diverse workspace that most of us encounter today, this might mean you need to tailor your feedback strategies to suit each employee individually. This might take more work, but the results should be better, too.

How to Give Effective Feedback

Now that we have a better understanding of the forces behind feedback, we can focus more on how to give it properly. Mastering this art of effective feedback is like being a tightrope walker. You need to balance honesty with empathy and make it to the end of the rope without falling or failing others. This is not achieved only with words, so you also have to consider timing, tone, and the intentions behind them. 

1. The Sandwich Method

You’ve probably heard of the ‘sandwich method,’ right? It’s where you tuck the tough stuff right between two slices of praise. It’s a classic because, let’s face it, who doesn’t like a little good news with their not-so-good? 

But here’s the catch – you gotta keep it real. If those compliments feel like fluff, the whole thing falls flat. Sometimes, if we go overboard with the nice-nice, the real message – the meaty part – gets lost. People only hear the good stuff and miss the part they need to work on. The trick is to make those positive comments genuinely connect to the constructive bit, keeping everything clear, on point, and, most importantly, real.

2. Being Specific and Objective

Throwing around general comments like “good job” or “needs improvement” is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine. They’re just too vague. Research supports this claim, and 92% of respondents agreed that negative feedback if handled correctly, can be very effective at improving performance. This shows us that it’s not all about delivering only praise. It’s more about being specific and objective. 

So, what’s the right way? It’s all about nailing the specifics. Picture this: instead of just saying, “Hey, you’re not a great team player,” try pointing out a specific moment. Something like, “At our last meeting, I noticed you interrupted your teammates a few times. It kinda put a lid on their ideas.” See? It’s direct, it’s about what happened, not who they are, and it’s way more likely to lead to a real change.

3. Focusing on Behaviors, Not Personal Attributes

When it comes to feedback, think of it like a spotlight – focus your light on actions and behaviors, not on the person’s character. Why?

When feedback starts to sound like you are critiquing someone’s personality, walls go up, and ears close. This is a natural emotional response to something that might be negative. No one likes to hear that their personality which can’t be changed, is the problem.

That’s why the goal is to steer clear of “you are” statements and stick to the “you did” ones. This approach focuses more on behavior and less on character, so people take it less to heart. So, instead of “You are not a good team player,” try something like “You did interrupt your colleague a couple of times, and that can make them feel uncomfortable in meetings.”

There are several models that can help you navigate feedback better. One of the most popular ones is the SBI (Situation-Behavior-Impact) model. It’s like a GPS for giving feedback. You start by mentioning a specific situation, zoom in on the behavior, and then discuss the impact of that behavior. It’s a straightforward way to keep your feedback clear, focused, and, most importantly, actionable.

4. Tailoring Feedback to Individual Needs

Everyone’s got their own feedback flavor. Some like it straight-up, no chaser, while others might need a gentler touch. The trick is to know who you’re talking to. This means you know your employees and how they react to good and bad news. 

Make sure to consider their personality, their role in the team, and what their personal goals might be. This quick analysis can help you tailor your message to fit every individual as a glove and, with that, be more effective.

5. Using the Right Setting 

While on the topic of different types of personalities in your team, you should also consider the setting where you deliver your feedback. Sharing thoughts in private can save someone from the blushes, but a shout-out in front of the team? That can be a real high-five moment. The key is choosing a spot that fits both the message and the person.

6. Encouraging Dialogue

Feedback shouldn’t feel like a lecture, even when it’s negative. You need to get the employee involved. How? 

Insist on engagement, encourage questions, show them you are genuinely interested in the conversation, and let them share their side of the story. This turns the whole thing into a two-way street, paving the way for better understanding and, fingers crossed, a nod of agreement. Everyone has their side of the story, and you might even find out new information that will make things easier to understand.

If we look at feedback as communication, chances are the opposite side will feel more receptive to the advice and lower their guard.

7. Follow-Up

Considering how stressful feedback can be, it would be great if you could do it only once and be done with it. However, the reality is that feedback is more of a series than a one-time show. 

This means you are keeping the doors open for communication and often peek in to see how your employees are doing. By showing interest in follow-ups, you demonstrate to everyone that you are in their corner and rooting for their growth, not just checking a box on a form. 

How to Receive Feedback Gracefully

We covered all the ways you can provide feedback to your employees, but what if you are on the receiving end? Getting feedback, especially if it’s not the praising kind, is not a walk in the park. But it’s not all bad. Did you know a Zenger/Folkman study showed that 94% of people actually value feedback, good or bad, as long as it’s presented helpfully?

1. Maintaining an Open Mindset

It’s easy to get defensive when feedback comes knocking, especially the out-of-the-blue or tough-to-swallow kind. The trick? Keep an open mind and believe it’s going to help you reach your full potential.

Remember, feedback’s there to light your way, not throw shade on your personality or your work. Realizing that we’ve all got room to grow can change feedback from something personal to something powerfully constructive.

2. Managing Defensive Reactions 

Imagine feeling defensive as craving chocolate. It’s something everyone can relate to. But, like a sudden craving for something sweet when you are trying to eat healthy, it can cloud your judgment. Suddenly, all you think about is the chocolate and how you can’t take the pressure. In reality, nothing will happen if you take a few minutes to think about that sudden surge of emotions. 

Do the same when receiving feedback.

Practice catching yourself when you start to bristle and hit the pause button. This breather can help you process the feedback from a more level-headed place.

3. Active Listening 

Listen to the feedback with attention and without interruption. While it might be hard to focus, if you feel attacked, take a minute to listen to everything before reacting. Tune into the words and intentions behind them. Active listening means nodding your head, repeating what you heard to make sure you are on the same page, and asking questions to dig deeper. 

Pin down specifics. Say they tell you to brush up on your communication skills – ask for exact moments when your communication missed the mark and how it could’ve been sharper.

4. Using Feedback for Personal Growth

Feedback is not always pleasant, but with small changes in perception, you can make the most of it. Use feedback as a personal life coach. Listen to it, appreciate the advice, reflect on what you heard, and spot the areas that need improvement.

If you look at feedback as more than fixing flaws, you get a chance to build on the areas where you are already doing great. If you feel the feedback is too personal, always look for a second opinion and get a more balanced perspective.

5. Expressing Gratitude

Whether it’s a pat on the back or a nudge in the right direction, always thank the person for their feedback. It’s not easy for them either, so showing gratitude can help you form a stronger bond and make future feedback sessions more effective. Gratitude doesn’t mean you agree with everything said. It’s more like building a bridge between colleagues to reach a common goal easier.

Feedback in Different Scenarios

Feedback is not one cookie-cutter thing. You need to change the shapes depending on where you are and who you’re with. Depending on the scenario, you need to choose the best approach, and this takes time and patience.

Feedback in the Workplace

In the office, feedback is like water that nurtures your employees and encourages them to grow and thrive. Gallup even found that managers who got strength-focused feedback boosted their profitability by 8.9%. Impressive, right?

For managers, giving clear, actionable feedback can motivate employees and improve team performance. For team members, receiving feedback can be the boost you need to climb the career ladder. Just keep in mind that in a professional setting, the feedback needs to focus on the job. For example, how someone is meeting deadlines, how well teams collaborate, and the quality of reporting.

  • Example: Say you’re a manager reviewing a project. Zoom in on the work specifics – was the report up to scratch? Did they beat the deadline? How did they get along with the team? This is about the task, not the person.

Feedback for Self-Evaluation

When it’s just you, feedback becomes a solo mission of self-assessment. It’s about taking a hard, honest look at your own performance. What tools can you use on this mission? Think about journaling, reflecting, and sometimes, asking others for their take.

  • Example: You finished a personal project? Great! Now, take a moment to reflect. What rocked? What was rocky? How did your actions steer the ship? Pinpoint what you can do better next time.

Feedback in Group Settings

In a group setting, like team meetings or projects, feedback becomes a group sport. It’s more about letting everyone share their experiences and using feedback to boost team performance and growth. This is not the time to bash or critique individual team players. Instead, use the opportunity to foster a culture of unity and collective improvement.

  • Example: In a team huddle, encourage a feedback free-for-all where everyone gets to pitch in. Keep the focus on how each piece of the puzzle fits into the team’s goals and objectives.

Overcoming Challenges in Feedback

It’s clear that feedback can be tricky to handle, no matter if you are the one giving it or the one on the receiving end. While we have covered most of the problematic moments and possibilities already, there are a few more cases where feedback can be especially challenging.

Handling Feedback in Virtual Environments

With more chats happening in the virtual realm, giving feedback over a screen brings its own set of challenges. Without those handy non-verbal cues, wires can easily get crossed. What can you do in this digital era? Keep your written feedback clear and concise, and for the big talks, a video call can make a world of difference.

Feedback Fatigue

While we saw that feedback can be quite transforming and effective, it can lose its “power” if you use it too often. Feedback fatigue is especially true if the news is always negative. So, the trick here is to find a balance. Mix in the positives with the critiques. Celebrate wins and strengths to keep spirits high and motivation intact.

Overcoming Resistance to Feedback 

Resistance, often rooted in a fear of change or criticism, can hinder the effectiveness of feedback. To combat this, establish trust and a positive rapport. Make it clear that feedback is a means for growth and improvement, not a judgment. Encourage a mindset that views feedback as an opportunity rather than a threat.


Feedback is a huge contributor to personal and professional development, but only if you handle it with grace and empathy. It’s a bumpy road until you find a way to balance criticism and praise so that no one feels the finger is pointed at them. If we look at feedback as helping someone build a road to success by providing blocks and concrete, we can all have a more positive outlook, even if the situation is challenging.

By implementing the ideas and concepts mentioned above, you can create a company culture that doesn’t fear feedback but rather embraces it as a way to grow together and thrive in the competitive market.


How often should feedback be given in a professional setting?

Idеally, fееdback should be an ongoing process rather than an oncе-a-yеar еvеnt. Rеgular fееdback, such as wееkly or monthly chеck-ins, is morе еffеctivе in promoting continuous growth and addressing issues as thеy arisе.

Can positive feedback be detrimental in any way?

While positivе fееdback is gеnеrally bеnеficial, it can bе dеtrimеntal if it’s not gеnuinе or spеcific. Gеnеric praisе likе “good job” can bеcomе mеaninglеss ovеr timе. Spеcific, authеntic positive feedback is far more impactful.

How can I give feedback to someone who is particularly sensitive to criticism?

Whеn giving fееdback to somеonе sеnsitivе, it’s crucial to focus on thе behavior rather than thе pеrson. Usе a compassionatе tonе, and framе thе fееdback as suggеstions for improvеmеnt rather than dirеct criticism. It can also be helpful to highlight their strengths alongsidе arеas for dеvеlopmеnt.

What's the best way to respond to feedback I disagree with?

If you disagrее with fееdback, start by acknowlеdging it and thanking thе givеr for thеir pеrspеctivе. Thеn, еxprеss your viеwpoint or ask for spеcific еxamplеs to undеrstand thеir pеrspеctivе bеttеr. Kееp an opеn mind, as thе fееdback might rеvеal blind spots in your sеlf-awarеnеss.