Just like relationships thrive when people are on the same page, the workplace functions in very much the same way. When teams communicate effectively and everyone is on good terms, organizations are more likely to experience long-term success. Yet, the ability to give and receive feedback in the workplace is an elusive concept for many organizations.
Sometimes, it’s down to management simply being unaware of how crucial employee feedback is. In others, though, it can be due to a toxic work environment or culture where employees do not feel like they can openly share feedback and are ill-equipped to action whatever feedback they themselves receive.
Why is Giving and Receiving Feedback Important?
Employee feedback is essential to fostering good professional relationships, improving productivity, and contributing to the overall success of the business. Feedback within organizations is continually overlooked. The fact is that more than 70% of employees feel they do not get enough face time with their bosses to discuss and find resolutions for issues in person.
When a group of employees were surveyed, 60% agreed they would appreciate weekly opportunities to give and receive feedback from their managers. So, while it’s evident the need is there, why do so many organizations overlook feedback systems? As we mentioned, reasons could range from lack of awareness and toxic cultures to time and resource constraints in designing and implementing a feedback culture.
If you’re on the fence and still think prioritizing employee feedback is new-age mumbo jumbo, think again! Here are just some of the many benefits improved feedback mechanisms can provide:
- Enhanced Performance: Employees who do not receive feedback regularly tend to be disengaged and lack the motivation to perform. The attitude tends to be, Why should I give my all, when I get nothing in return and don’t know where I stand? When employees feel this way, productivity levels are going to plummet, which will in turn, eventually hurt your company’s bottom line. However, suppose an employee feels they have received recognition for what they’re doing right and guidance on areas where they could improve. In that case, they will be much more motivated to make improvements to get further positive feedback from their managers.
- Empower Employees: Regular feedback puts employees in the driver’s seat when it comes to career development and personal growth. When they know which areas they need to work on in order to progress in their careers, it gives them control and empowers them to steer the proverbial ship in the right direction. When feedback is the norm, employees will tend to be more proactive in requesting feedback in order to make real-time improvements.
- Extinguish Simmering Conflicts: When you put scores of people together with their own personalities and viewpoints, you’re guaranteed that not everyone will get along. And that is ok. However, when personality clashes bubble over into full-blown conflicts that tear teams apart and affect productivity, you’ve got a problem on your hands. If mutually-beneficial feedback was the norm in your office, employees would be able to better iron out their disagreements and find resolutions before they escalate into something nasty. This can alleviate a lot of pressure off of HR and allow them to focus on their core duties.
- Improve Employee Engagement: We’ve already mentioned it, but we’d shout it from the rooftops if we could. When employees feel unheard, overwhelmed, and trapped in a toxic cycle of negativity, they are going to disengage. However, if you implement a feedback system that includes giving recognition where it’s due, 72% of employees find recognition a driving force behind their willingness to engage.
- Reduce Churn: Companies that actively engage in employee feedback have a staff turnover rate that is 9% lower than companies that don’t.
Tips on How to Give Feedback
The reality is that while most managers know that feedback is important, they simply aren’t equipped with the knowledge of exactly how to give it. In the heat of the moment and when the pressure is on, it can be all too easy to lash out at employees or peers, which is damaging. Instead, if an employee feedback system were in place, you would have a better idea of how to diffuse problems. Feedback can come from management to employees, peer to peer or can also come from an employee to their manager. The below principles of giving feedback apply to all these scenarios.
Establish Mutual Trust
When you are going to be working within a team, it is vital to establish trust and a good rapport with each person. When you know there is a level of mutual trust and respect between yourself and your team, it becomes much easier to have difficult conversations. Think about it, if someone you barely know and who you feel doesn’t have your best interests at heart gives you negative feedback, you’ll hop into defense mode immediately. However, if you already have open lines of communication and the person knows you appreciate their efforts, any criticism will be better received.
Don’t Only Focus On The Negatives
If you’re angry with one of your peers or employees and feel they’ve let you down, it can be hard to not hone in on all the mistakes they’re making. While some people can take this style of feedback, for most employees this kind of feedback style knocks the wind out of their sails. Begin a feedback session by acknowledging what they’re doing well before you dive straight into the bad stuff. For example, if someone is continually missing deadlines, but the work is of high quality, acknowledge that first before you try to get to the cause of the missed deadlines.
Even if an employee does an excellent job, there is always room for improvement. This links back to giving employees autonomy over their career development. Let them know what areas of a project they really nailed, and then give additional suggestions that could take the project to another level. By having a clear understanding of the requirements, they’ll be proactive next time around by making those additional improvements without you even having to ask.
Meet In Person
While this is not always a realistic expectation because of remote teams, in-person meetings can foster stronger professional relationships. If you can’t meet in person, schedule video call feedback sessions with your team members. Try to keep the sessions informal so the other person doesn’t come into the meeting stressed and on the defensive. Instead, say something along the lines of, “I’d love it if we could grab a coffee at x date so I can share my thoughts on x project and get your feedback.”
Another reason why in-person or video conferencing can help improve feedback is that much is lost in translation over text or email. Face-to-face meetings enable both participants to interpret body language, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues to better understand the message and not read negativity into neutral statements.
Don’t Launch a Personal Attack
This is a very important point…you should never make feedback personal. As we’ve said in the heat of the moment, it can feel tempting to tear into a person’s character flaws but that is never helpful. So instead of telling the employee who is missing deadlines that they’re lazy, rude or careless, let them know that missing those deadlines jeopardizes a client account/sets the rest of the team back/affects the company’s reputation instead. Focus on the problem and the consequences rather than the personality of the individual in question.
Be Consistent With Feedback
If you tend to provide feedback sporadically, this is something that should be overhauled. In fact, feedback is most effective when it becomes part of your work culture and not just a “thing” that is done here and there. You could do weekly team feedback huddles and then set aside time for monthly one-on-one sessions. However, regardless of how you structure it, there should always be an open-door policy for employees to request feedback in real-time.
Feedback should always be provided in a timely manner. Don’t wait two months to provide feedback on a project and leave employees in limbo. Give feedback as soon as you can so it can be incorporated into subsequent projects right away.
Try To Be Specific
Feedback should be very clear and specific so as to avoid further confusion and frustration. If an employee’s reports are continually full of spelling errors, simply telling them the report is not up to standard won’t provide real clarity on what areas need improvement. However, if you let them know they should run the reports through Grammarly and carefully proofread them before submission, this sets an actionable goal rather than passing ambiguous comments.
Tips on How to Receive Feedback
The way individuals in the workplace respond to feedback is just as important as the manner in which it is given out. Many people find responding to feedback difficult because it requires a level of vulnerability many people aren’t willing to get on board with at work. However, if you are mindful of some best practices when responding to feedback, you can be better equipped when the time comes and put it to good use.
Don’t respond at all until the other person has finished talking. Show them you are actively listening, but refrain from interrupting them or jumping to your defense. If the feedback comes via text or email, don’t jump down their throats and respond in the heat of the moment. Read it properly, take a moment, and formulate a respectful response.
Don’t Get Defensive
Further to the above, it is natural to want to defend yourself – even if you know you’re in the wrong! It’s simply your ego trying to protect itself…you’re human, after all! It can be even harder to not become defensive when the feedback is poorly delivered but see it as an opportunity for personal growth.
Ask for Clarity
If you’re struggling to understand where criticism comes from or what specific behaviors/deliverables the person needs you to work on, you should always ask for clarity. Make sure you do it sincerely and don’t come across as sarcastic or irritable.
Create an Action Plan
While you might not agree with everything that was said, there will be some truth to the matter, so to demonstrate you are open to taking on board what has been discussed. Create an action plan with set timeframes. Have immediate steps you will take to bring visible change as soon as possible while also outlining other steps you will take that may take longer to bring about results. For example, if your colleague complains you’re not pulling your weight in a project, arrive early at your next team meeting and offer suggestions. If you’re less engaged in the project because you don’t understand your role, feel out of your depth or are being overshadowed by another team member, figure out ways to remedy the root cause and share this with your colleague.
Set A Follow-Up Date
Set a reasonable date for a follow-up meeting that will give you enough time to implement the feedback. This demonstrates you are taking what was said seriously and value not only the opinions of your colleague/manager but the organization too. This will go a long way toward building trust and favor within your organization.
Building a Feedback Culture in Your Workplace
In order to make individuals feel safe to give feedback, supported in taking feedback on board, and ultimately, feel heard, workplaces must create a culture where feedback is prioritized and normalized. Here are some simple ways to make feedback the norm in your business.
Encourage Growth Mindsets
Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, defines a growth mindset as when “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” Employees should be encouraged to become lifelong learners and therefore view feedback as a mechanism for growth and development.
Invest in Training
Several consultants offer training in employee feedback as well as online courses you can work through together as a team. Your HR department can also develop an in-house training program by doing the following:
- Provide clear guidelines around giving feedback
- Show examples of what constructive feedback looks like
- Improve employee communication skills and systems
- Demonstrate how resistance to feedback is damaging to teams and organizations
- Let employees know that they are free to ask questions and seek clarification
- Send management for training
Lead by Example
Company culture almost always filters from the top down, so if managers are resistant to feedback or have poor feedback styles, this will trickle down to the rest of the company. Management should lead by example by encouraging open dialogues, asking for feedback, and responding positively.
Create A Safe Space for Sharing
While you can praise employees in front of the rest of the office, negative feedback should always be delivered privately. Further to this, employees shouldn’t feel afraid to give feedback or like they’ll be penalized for doing so. While an introverted employee may be less open to giving feedback, by creating a safe environment to do so they may slowly get more used to the practice with time.
Create A Clear Feedback Structure
Employees will be unwilling to provide and receive feedback if the way they must do so is ambiguous or if there’s lots of red tape. Instead, design an employee handbook that clearly outlines the procedures for giving feedback and expectations on how this feedback should be used. This should be provided to employees as soon as they join your organization so it is crystal clear from day one.
Find A Feedback Channel That Works For Your Team
How you give and receive feedback relies quite heavily upon whether you work in an office or remotely. However, you can conduct feedback sessions in a few different ways:
- Video call
- Team meetings
- Anonymous feedback (e.g. surveys)
Examples of Truly Constructive Criticism
To help bring home the concept, we’ll look at various examples of how to provide feedback in a constructive and positive way.
Example 1: The Introvert Employee
Introverts can be painfully shy and afraid to share their opinions at the risk of being judged. So often, they will avoid sharing ideas during meetings which can be misinterpreted as being disinterested or slacking off. Instead of attacking their personality, encourage them to share more during meetings like so:
“Your portfolio and track record shows me you have ideas that can really add value to the project. I’d really love it if you could provide a few suggestions during our next team meeting.”
This lets the employee know that you appreciate their contribution to the organization and creates a safe space to be a little vulnerable and share. Giving them advance warning you expect them to share also allows them to prepare and organize their thoughts prior to the meeting so they will be more relaxed and open to contributing.
Example 2: The No-Nonsense Employee
An employee continually speaks to their colleagues in a very blunt way that some interpret as unfriendly or are even offended by. To encourage them to take a different tone with their colleagues you could try the following approach:
“While we love that you are a bold and headstrong team member, telling other members of the team their work is inferior and you’d rather do the work yourself makes the rest of the team feel undervalued and discourages cohesive teamwork. I’d appreciate it if we can perhaps work together on how to better deliver your opinions to improve the harmony within the team.”
It is irrefutable that feedback can only enhance an organization’s productivity levels, teamwork, morale and employee retention rates. When you invest the time and energy into creating a feedback culture that makes open communication the norm, you are investing in the long-term success of your organization. If you’d like to streamline your HR department and manage your people better, give CrewHR’s all-in-one solution a try.