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How to Give and Receive Healthy Feedback

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

As human beings, we often hunger for feedback. However, many people will tell you that when they do get feedback, it’s often because of something they have done wrong. Whether feedback is formal or informal, and whether it is provided to employees, peers, or someone else, there are ways that it can be structured to be effective and lasting.

Feedback is an essential asset in the workplace, and leaders need to know the benefits it can provide in these environments. Currently, today’s leaders face a significant concern with employee engagement. According to a 2017 Gallup research report, engaged employees lead to about 17% more profitability, 41% fewer absences, and up to a 59% reduction in employee turnover for highly engaged businesses. With the onslaught of COVID-19, the new at-home workplace norm, and employees juggling countless personal and professional roles, leaders are struggling to find ways to enhance participation among employees. Unfortunately, many leaders waste valuable resources and time on participatory programs, which often net very little in changed attitudes or behaviors.

Bringing healthy communication back into the work culture by utilizing feedback is a great way to combat these issues. Creating an environment of open communication and effective feedback will help leaders create the working environment that they want to see.

Contrary to popular belief, many employees value feedback from their leaders. Maintaining consistent communication and providing helpful feedback regularly results in an increase in employee engagement levels. For leaders, learning to effectively communicate feedback to your staff will aid employees who desire to become better professionals and advance professionally into leadership positions themselves.

If you want to keep your team members motivated, it’s important to give practical feedback. Working every day on project after project without receiving feedback may make employees feel overlooked or unimportant. As humans, we strive to feel like we belong and are significant. In a workplace environment, this translates to feeling like there is value in the work we do and what we contribute to the business, and knowing that we are a part of a group of dedicated people all working toward the same goals. This gives us a sense of purpose. It adds meaning to what we do. It is what encourages people to show up every day and deliver their best. Giving regular feedback is one way we can show employees that they are valued and useful. Any feedback, good or bad, that is delivered in an effective and practical manner will reiterate to your employees that there is a point to what they are doing and can inspire them to want to do better.

Managers who practice giving and receiving feedback regularly notice that their employees have more incentive to complete tasks. They understand the relevance of their work, and they feel that their superiors are genuinely interested in their projects. Motivated employees are not only more productive, but they are also much happier and committed.

There are two main types of feedback: formal and informal. Informal feedback is found in casual conversations referencing the work being done. Formal feedback is a more coordinated and documented form of communication.

There are a variety of methods for both:


  • One-on-one meetings

  • Annual reviews

  • Discipline reports


  • Lunch or coffee with an employee

  • “Popping in” at a workspace

  • Sharing verbal comments as a task is being completed

Anyone can give feedback, but it takes a particular set of communication techniques to make sure your point gets across adequately. Knowing how your employees respond and react can help in deciphering which feedback method will be best received. Differentiating which comments and questions will be impactful involves being more active listeners instead of direct confrontation. It is also crucial to ensure feedback is fair and considerate of the circumstances in which the behavior occurs and the individual(s) involved.

Employee feedback should be specific and solution-centered. General feedback such as “I’m not satisfied with your performance” can leave your employee frazzled, anxious and confused on how to proceed. If you have feedback surrounding improvement, be direct about how you’d like your employees to improve and offer suggestions and guidance on a productive path forward. Also, make sure the receiver has understood your feedback. Give them the opportunity to ask follow-up questions and create solutions that you both can work through together in order to determine a meaningful course of action. For example, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late on a few of your recent assignments. We should schedule a meeting. I could work with you on your time management and make sure you’re not committing to too many tasks.” Also, remember to continuously share positive feedback so employees know what they’re doing right. Always ensure the conversation is equally balanced. If you lecture someone solely on what they are doing wrong or how they should correct themselves, it will most likely go in one ear and out the other.

For employees receiving feedback, it is critical that they be receptive to incorporate action steps into their routine for the better. When approached with feedback, it is crucial to not get defensive. If you create an atmosphere that suggests that you don’t handle criticism well, others might hesitate to come to you in the future. Be an active listener, open-minded, and practice empathy by utilizing body language and facial expressions that encourage others to speak their minds.

The person providing you with feedback will appreciate that you are willing to hear what they are saying instead of arguing or justifying behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarification, and it may even help to summarize and repeat back the feedback that the provider has given you. Ask for specific examples so you know that you and the person providing feedback are on the same page. Under what circumstances did they observe the actions that they describe. It is important to remember that everyone interprets behavior and attitudes differently through their own experiences.

In order to give you a more comprehensive perspective, it may help to ask for a second opinion. If just one person believes what you heard in the feedback about you, it may be due to their own perceptions of events, not you. For example, say, “Bill, I was told by our manager that he perceived me as being unwilling to elaborate on the suggestions I made in the meeting earlier. Do you feel this way as well?”

Useful feedback can be incredibly helpful in the workplace, leading to increased productivity, inspiring motivation, and making workplace culture more inclusive and vibrant. It is important to appreciate those leaders and colleagues who are willing to genuinely help you improve, focusing on gaining a clear understanding of the feedback by questioning and restating what you have heard.

It is in our nature to desire feedback. However, when most hear the term, an adverse reaction comes to mind, such as being scolded and punished for something you’ve done. It is of the utmost importance that leaders in the workplace have methods for providing inspirational, realistic feedback that works for employees on an individual level and gets their point across effectively. With this in mind, workplaces become filled with motivated teams of productive people all working to better the missions of their companies.

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