4 Tips for Giving — and Receiving — Feedback at Work

When we reframe how we think about feedback, we’re better able to grow and evolve.

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Getty Images

It’s always a good feeling to receive praise at work, but the truth is, we all also have areas of our work and our communication that could be improved. It can be difficult to give that feedback — and just as hard to receive it. If you’re someone who struggles to receive and address work-related feedback, you’re not alone  — and there are small steps you can take to become more comfortable with it.

Here are some strategies that can help:

Shift your mindset around what  feedback is – and isn’t

When we think of feedback as a reflection of our character, or an expression of our worth, it’s easy to see why it can be terrifying. But feedback is simply information. It can even be a gift — something to be appreciated rather than feared. “Feedback is critically important in the workplace,” Ronald Riggio, Ph.D., a leadership and organizational psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College, tells Thrive. “We can’t improve without feedback, and that’s why it should be an ongoing process.” Riggio says that by making feedback a core part of our company culture, we can all become more comfortable with speaking up and welcoming feedback from our managers.

Lead with compassionate directness

Compassionate directness is all about speaking up, disagreeing, and surfacing problems and pain points in real time. And doing it all with compassion, empathy and understanding. Too often, we believe we have to choose between being direct and being compassionate — but compassion and directness are not mutually exclusive. So remember to speak up immediately instead of hoping a problem will go away. And when receiving feedback, remember that compassionately direct feedback is how we course-correct and grow as individuals, and it’s how many of our best ideas come to light.

Look at the full picture 

If you’re giving a team member feedback on how they are treating other members of the team, try not to generalize. Riggio says a concept called “person perception” can hold us back from truly believing the person can improve. “When evaluating someone’s performance, we over-attribute failure to something about the person without taking into account the situational factors that influence performance,” he explains. Instead of generalizing, take a step back and look at what happened in the situation — and ask for additional context. And when you’re receiving feedback, don’t think of yourself as a failure! Again, feedback is all about receiving information to help you improve — so it’s up to you to welcome that information and ask questions while giving yourself grace. 

Give yourself time to digest

When we receive feedback, it’s easy to respond defensively. But so often, we underestimate the importance of taking some time to let the feedback marinate, and responding when we’re ready. So the next time your manager gives you feedback, thank them and then set up some time to sit down with them later in the week to discuss how you can course-correct. 

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