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The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

January 12, 2022

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Feedback… Say it with me out loud… Feedback

The word “feedback” can spark an array of feelings for you and your team. Whether it gives you a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach or excitement about the growth and development it fosters, you’re not alone. 

Hopefully, the days of passive-aggressive power plays categorized as “constructive criticism” are long gone and we can look at feedback not only as a way to be better personally, but propel the growth and culture of your company. 

Let’s take a look at ways you can make sure every piece of feedback does exactly that.

Why is feedback important?

You don’t realize how important having a high-feedback culture is until you don’t have one. If you’ve ever had to wonder how you’re doing, have had a performance review that came as a surprise, or felt that you couldn't let your manager know if they could be doing something better, you’ve probably experienced a feedback-lacking environment.  

Without it, individuals face low engagement, a lack of learning, and stifled growth. The company as a whole can face low performance and hierarchical communication gaps.

According to Gallup, managers showed 8.9% greater profitability when given feedback on their strengths and 14.9% lower employee turnover. 

Feedback also avoids toxic positivity. If you’re not familiar, think of a culture where everything is supposed to be perfect and things that aren’t are swept under the rug.

Being able to admit when your business has areas of improvement is the first step to them actually improving.  And while we love high-fives and praise here at Trainual, it’s impossible to grow without also embracing the tough conversations!

To create this type of environment in a company, it’s important to provide a space for everyone at all levels to give and receive feedback.

If feedback only comes from leadership, you may risk employees feeling like they aren’t safe to tell managers how they can improve. Leaders need feedback too! Normalize feedback being for everyone, by everyone.

Setting the foundation for your feedback

Perhaps the anxiety that comes with workplace feedback stems more from the delivery than the feedback itself.

Story time: Let’s say Marissa is hosting a training on feedback! While she did an amazing job talking through how to give feedback, she didn’t talk through how to receive it. Eric is going to give her feedback on this. 

Example of feedback that is lacking the basics: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training last month wasn’t helpful. I think you could have done a better job.” (A month later, not specific, not kind, no action can be taken from this.)

To turn this into productive redirecting of the behavior, let’s take a look at the five things that feedback should be: 

  • Specific - It’s nearly impossible to reflect and improve on a situation from “that thing that happened a month ago.” Come prepared with a specific behavior or situation you’d like to talk through. 
  • Kind - Hopefully this goes without saying, but feedback that isn’t coming from a thoughtful and kind place is bound to be poorly received. Ultimately, the goal of peer feedback should always be to help each other grow and win as a team. 
  • Direct - Give your own feedback. Giving feedback for someone else isn’t the most effective way to turn a situation into a genuine conversation. And in the spirit of having a high-feedback environment, you shouldn’t have to dance around it.
  • Timely - Part of receiving feedback is to reflect on the behavior and have productive dialogue about the current situation. When it comes to on-the-spot recognition versus formal reviews, 80% of Gen Y said they prefer the former. Don’t wait, just have the convo!
  • Actionable - Make sure what you’re giving feedback on is something that the person can actually change. From there, come up with a goal of how you’d like the future state to look and actions to set to help them get there. 

Productive feedback methods

While the foundation sets the stage of your feedback session, it’s common for nerves to lead to rambling, losing our train of thought, or simply not conveying the message as intended. 

Have no fear - there are many feedback delivery methods that can help get your ducks in a row and communicate directly and with ease. These are totally optional, but can be used as a tool to help guide the conversation, if needed.

BIQ feedback method 

As recommended by CultureAmp, an employee engagement tool, BIQ is Trainual’s top pick for feedback delivery. 

BIQ stands for Behavior, Impact, and Question. It allows you to talk through the specific action, what the impact was, and end with a question to spark dialogue. Here at Trainual, we want our feedback to not only hit the foundational points, but to be given in a thoughtful, succinct, and conversational way.

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa. I wanted to chat through your feedback training from this morning. (Behavior) While it was great to learn how to give feedback, it missed teaching me tips for how to receive feedback and left me feeling nervous to receive feedback in the future. (Impact) Is this something we can talk through 1:1 or something you envision continuing with a separate training? (Question)”

What/Why feedback method

What they did, why it matters. This simple method allows feedback to be short and sweet while still capturing the specific behavior and impact.

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training was helpful on giving feedback but lacked how to receive it. (What she did) If we are creating a culture of giving more feedback, it’s important that people feel comfortable on the receiving end and I left feeling like I don’t have those tools. (Why it matters)"

DESC feedback method

DESC stands for Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences. Although lengthy, this method covers the bases to make for a well-thought out conversation. (If consequences made you think back to getting in trouble in middle school, we feel you. Not our favorite, either.)

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training taught us how to give feedback, but missed how to receive it. (Describe) It made me feel nervous to have someone direct feedback to me in the future, (Express) specifically, not knowing the best way to respond if I’m uncomfortable. (Specify) If we only learn one side, it will result in people giving feedback and it trickling off because it’s not well received. (Consequences)"

Sandwich feedback method

Compliment, feedback, compliment. While it’s natural to go to this classic method, it’s not our favorite because it masks the feedback and makes people feel that everything needs to be positive and covered in rainbows.

In the spirit of avoiding toxic positivity, we suggest practicing direct methods that let you have the hard convo rather than glossing over. But if it will make you comfortable enough to have the conversation, go for it!

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, great job with the feedback training! It was so insightful and well-delivered. (Compliment) It missed the part on how to receive feedback (Feedback), but you’re really great at presenting and I really enjoyed it. (Compliment)"

But, when? HOW? 

As previously mentioned, workplace feedback needs to be part of the culture. It can’t be a one-off nor can it only come from certain people. To best create this, feedback should be given often, to and from everyone, and preferably in the way people wish to receive.

Wish to receive? You mean make it… PERSONALIZED? Yes. If you’re creating a high-feedback environment, start every relationship or hire with the simple question of how they like to receive feedback. Everyone is different, so here are a few different ways and things to consider.

  • In-person vs video conferencing - In-person will foster the most genuine dialogue when giving feedback and open up a flow in and out of the conversation. If you can give feedback (truly) face-to-face, please do. If you’re remote optimized, you may not have the luxury of all conversations in person and video conferencing like Zoom is the next best thing! Seeing the other person allows you to see how they are responding and for them to pick up on your body cues. Just as posture is known to show engagement, other gestures like head tilts can show listening and empathy in the conversation.
  • Live feedback vs in writing - Again, dialogue should be the goal, so live is typically the most natural way to foster this. If you’re giving praise or positively reinforcing something someone did well, perhaps this is a good time to put it in writing in a workplace communication platform like Slack so others can join in the compliments. On the other side, if the feedback is more geared towards a performance management conversation, we recommend giving the feedback live and then recapping in writing to help document the development conversations.
  • When to give the heads up feedback is on it’s way - Generally speaking, “we need to talk” is not a phrase that brings people comfort and ease. You have the option to either not give someone the heads up beforehand that you’ll be having the conversation or letting them know in the meeting agenda that you’ll be giving some feedback on a specific topic. Everyone is different. We suggest this be in the preliminary conversation of how people prefer to be given feedback.
  • Who it should come from - The best way to create a culture of celebrating feedback is to let everyone give it! In the spirit of being direct, if you have something to say - say it yourself! Unless the feedback is part of a larger performance management conversation, folks should feel comfortable to give to peers, direct reports, and leadership alike. (Seriously, let’s avoid a game of telephone!)

How to receive feedback

Now that we are pros at giving great feedback, let’s not forget it takes two to tango. The receiving end is just as important, and we’ve put a few suggestions below to help foster a healthy, two-sided discussion.

Defense can be left for your sports game

Feedback shouldn’t be someone talking down at you. If their feedback has the foundations above, it should be a tool to help improve. 

It’s tough, but take a deep breath and remember to listen first. If you do feel like they are talking down to you, ask for specific examples and give them feedback on their delivery. (Hint hint, keep reading.)

Leave your ego at the door

Hopefully, this applies to your workplace as a whole, but especially in the spirit of feedback. It’s not always comfortable to give feedback, so give the courtesy of respect back and assume positive intent.

Before jumping to defense or feeling attacked, remember the goal of the company and your role. Their feedback is given in the spirit of helping you be the best at what you do!

Give feedback on their feedback

If feedback is well-delivered and kindly intended, it should feel better on the receiving end. If not, let the giver know the best way you receive feedback and let them in on more productive delivery tools. Perhaps even pass along this blog. 😉

Example: “Thank you for the feedback. You made insightful points on X, Y, and Z. While I’m always looking to improve, feedback can be tough and I’d love to share the best way I receive it. In the future, if you can [insert something they can do, how it would impact you], that would be greatly appreciated! Is there anything specific you prefer when getting feedback that would be helpful for me to know?”

Hopefully, you feel equipped to start giving feedback and helping those around you feel comfortable to do the same. Remember, it takes having conversations frequently, kindly, and without repercussion to foster a true feedback environment - starting one discussion at a time.

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Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Article

The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

January 12, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Feedback… Say it with me out loud… Feedback

The word “feedback” can spark an array of feelings for you and your team. Whether it gives you a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach or excitement about the growth and development it fosters, you’re not alone. 

Hopefully, the days of passive-aggressive power plays categorized as “constructive criticism” are long gone and we can look at feedback not only as a way to be better personally, but propel the growth and culture of your company. 

Let’s take a look at ways you can make sure every piece of feedback does exactly that.

Why is feedback important?

You don’t realize how important having a high-feedback culture is until you don’t have one. If you’ve ever had to wonder how you’re doing, have had a performance review that came as a surprise, or felt that you couldn't let your manager know if they could be doing something better, you’ve probably experienced a feedback-lacking environment.  

Without it, individuals face low engagement, a lack of learning, and stifled growth. The company as a whole can face low performance and hierarchical communication gaps.

According to Gallup, managers showed 8.9% greater profitability when given feedback on their strengths and 14.9% lower employee turnover. 

Feedback also avoids toxic positivity. If you’re not familiar, think of a culture where everything is supposed to be perfect and things that aren’t are swept under the rug.

Being able to admit when your business has areas of improvement is the first step to them actually improving.  And while we love high-fives and praise here at Trainual, it’s impossible to grow without also embracing the tough conversations!

To create this type of environment in a company, it’s important to provide a space for everyone at all levels to give and receive feedback.

If feedback only comes from leadership, you may risk employees feeling like they aren’t safe to tell managers how they can improve. Leaders need feedback too! Normalize feedback being for everyone, by everyone.

Setting the foundation for your feedback

Perhaps the anxiety that comes with workplace feedback stems more from the delivery than the feedback itself.

Story time: Let’s say Marissa is hosting a training on feedback! While she did an amazing job talking through how to give feedback, she didn’t talk through how to receive it. Eric is going to give her feedback on this. 

Example of feedback that is lacking the basics: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training last month wasn’t helpful. I think you could have done a better job.” (A month later, not specific, not kind, no action can be taken from this.)

To turn this into productive redirecting of the behavior, let’s take a look at the five things that feedback should be: 

  • Specific - It’s nearly impossible to reflect and improve on a situation from “that thing that happened a month ago.” Come prepared with a specific behavior or situation you’d like to talk through. 
  • Kind - Hopefully this goes without saying, but feedback that isn’t coming from a thoughtful and kind place is bound to be poorly received. Ultimately, the goal of peer feedback should always be to help each other grow and win as a team. 
  • Direct - Give your own feedback. Giving feedback for someone else isn’t the most effective way to turn a situation into a genuine conversation. And in the spirit of having a high-feedback environment, you shouldn’t have to dance around it.
  • Timely - Part of receiving feedback is to reflect on the behavior and have productive dialogue about the current situation. When it comes to on-the-spot recognition versus formal reviews, 80% of Gen Y said they prefer the former. Don’t wait, just have the convo!
  • Actionable - Make sure what you’re giving feedback on is something that the person can actually change. From there, come up with a goal of how you’d like the future state to look and actions to set to help them get there. 

Productive feedback methods

While the foundation sets the stage of your feedback session, it’s common for nerves to lead to rambling, losing our train of thought, or simply not conveying the message as intended. 

Have no fear - there are many feedback delivery methods that can help get your ducks in a row and communicate directly and with ease. These are totally optional, but can be used as a tool to help guide the conversation, if needed.

BIQ feedback method 

As recommended by CultureAmp, an employee engagement tool, BIQ is Trainual’s top pick for feedback delivery. 

BIQ stands for Behavior, Impact, and Question. It allows you to talk through the specific action, what the impact was, and end with a question to spark dialogue. Here at Trainual, we want our feedback to not only hit the foundational points, but to be given in a thoughtful, succinct, and conversational way.

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa. I wanted to chat through your feedback training from this morning. (Behavior) While it was great to learn how to give feedback, it missed teaching me tips for how to receive feedback and left me feeling nervous to receive feedback in the future. (Impact) Is this something we can talk through 1:1 or something you envision continuing with a separate training? (Question)”

What/Why feedback method

What they did, why it matters. This simple method allows feedback to be short and sweet while still capturing the specific behavior and impact.

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training was helpful on giving feedback but lacked how to receive it. (What she did) If we are creating a culture of giving more feedback, it’s important that people feel comfortable on the receiving end and I left feeling like I don’t have those tools. (Why it matters)"

DESC feedback method

DESC stands for Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences. Although lengthy, this method covers the bases to make for a well-thought out conversation. (If consequences made you think back to getting in trouble in middle school, we feel you. Not our favorite, either.)

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, your feedback training taught us how to give feedback, but missed how to receive it. (Describe) It made me feel nervous to have someone direct feedback to me in the future, (Express) specifically, not knowing the best way to respond if I’m uncomfortable. (Specify) If we only learn one side, it will result in people giving feedback and it trickling off because it’s not well received. (Consequences)"

Sandwich feedback method

Compliment, feedback, compliment. While it’s natural to go to this classic method, it’s not our favorite because it masks the feedback and makes people feel that everything needs to be positive and covered in rainbows.

In the spirit of avoiding toxic positivity, we suggest practicing direct methods that let you have the hard convo rather than glossing over. But if it will make you comfortable enough to have the conversation, go for it!

Example from Eric to Marissa: “Hey Marissa, great job with the feedback training! It was so insightful and well-delivered. (Compliment) It missed the part on how to receive feedback (Feedback), but you’re really great at presenting and I really enjoyed it. (Compliment)"

But, when? HOW? 

As previously mentioned, workplace feedback needs to be part of the culture. It can’t be a one-off nor can it only come from certain people. To best create this, feedback should be given often, to and from everyone, and preferably in the way people wish to receive.

Wish to receive? You mean make it… PERSONALIZED? Yes. If you’re creating a high-feedback environment, start every relationship or hire with the simple question of how they like to receive feedback. Everyone is different, so here are a few different ways and things to consider.

  • In-person vs video conferencing - In-person will foster the most genuine dialogue when giving feedback and open up a flow in and out of the conversation. If you can give feedback (truly) face-to-face, please do. If you’re remote optimized, you may not have the luxury of all conversations in person and video conferencing like Zoom is the next best thing! Seeing the other person allows you to see how they are responding and for them to pick up on your body cues. Just as posture is known to show engagement, other gestures like head tilts can show listening and empathy in the conversation.
  • Live feedback vs in writing - Again, dialogue should be the goal, so live is typically the most natural way to foster this. If you’re giving praise or positively reinforcing something someone did well, perhaps this is a good time to put it in writing in a workplace communication platform like Slack so others can join in the compliments. On the other side, if the feedback is more geared towards a performance management conversation, we recommend giving the feedback live and then recapping in writing to help document the development conversations.
  • When to give the heads up feedback is on it’s way - Generally speaking, “we need to talk” is not a phrase that brings people comfort and ease. You have the option to either not give someone the heads up beforehand that you’ll be having the conversation or letting them know in the meeting agenda that you’ll be giving some feedback on a specific topic. Everyone is different. We suggest this be in the preliminary conversation of how people prefer to be given feedback.
  • Who it should come from - The best way to create a culture of celebrating feedback is to let everyone give it! In the spirit of being direct, if you have something to say - say it yourself! Unless the feedback is part of a larger performance management conversation, folks should feel comfortable to give to peers, direct reports, and leadership alike. (Seriously, let’s avoid a game of telephone!)

How to receive feedback

Now that we are pros at giving great feedback, let’s not forget it takes two to tango. The receiving end is just as important, and we’ve put a few suggestions below to help foster a healthy, two-sided discussion.

Defense can be left for your sports game

Feedback shouldn’t be someone talking down at you. If their feedback has the foundations above, it should be a tool to help improve. 

It’s tough, but take a deep breath and remember to listen first. If you do feel like they are talking down to you, ask for specific examples and give them feedback on their delivery. (Hint hint, keep reading.)

Leave your ego at the door

Hopefully, this applies to your workplace as a whole, but especially in the spirit of feedback. It’s not always comfortable to give feedback, so give the courtesy of respect back and assume positive intent.

Before jumping to defense or feeling attacked, remember the goal of the company and your role. Their feedback is given in the spirit of helping you be the best at what you do!

Give feedback on their feedback

If feedback is well-delivered and kindly intended, it should feel better on the receiving end. If not, let the giver know the best way you receive feedback and let them in on more productive delivery tools. Perhaps even pass along this blog. 😉

Example: “Thank you for the feedback. You made insightful points on X, Y, and Z. While I’m always looking to improve, feedback can be tough and I’d love to share the best way I receive it. In the future, if you can [insert something they can do, how it would impact you], that would be greatly appreciated! Is there anything specific you prefer when getting feedback that would be helpful for me to know?”

Hopefully, you feel equipped to start giving feedback and helping those around you feel comfortable to do the same. Remember, it takes having conversations frequently, kindly, and without repercussion to foster a true feedback environment - starting one discussion at a time.

Article

The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

The Right Way To Give Workplace Feedback

January 12, 2022

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