The art of giving and receiving feedback

Part of keeping your finger on the pulse when it comes to your own self-awareness and growth in the workplace, requires soliciting and graciously receiving feedback from the people you work with. But as easy as it sounds in theory, it’s something most of us find difficult. We often view negative or “constructive” feedback as an attack on our character and ability to do our jobs well. In fact, negative feedback is liable to catapult us into an emotional rollercoaster like the five stages of grief – initial anger, followed by denial, followed by (possibly) some wallowing and finally acceptance.

We don’t naturally ‘do’ constructive feedback

As necessary as feedback is to our development, recent Harvard Business research indicates that we very much dislike receiving negative feedback and end up resenting and actively avoiding those co-workers who have dished it out. In fact, upon receiving negative feedback, we seek out new relationships with co-workers who are more likely to give us positive feedback. It appears we are hard-wired to off-set negative reviews of ourselves with positive ones, whilst denying the negative feedback.

Here lies the conundrum of giving and receiving feedback. The whole idea behind any kind of workplace feedback, including performance reviews, is to expose those weaker aspects of ourselves that we can’t. It assumes that when these ‘areas for improvement’ are revealed we will be motivated to improve. But it’s this revelation of hearing we are not as great as we think we are, that propels us away from the truth, avoid the people who think negatively of us, and set out on the path to find praise elsewhere. All in an act of self-preservation. Where’ the growth in this scenario?

Receiving feedback needs an open, growth mindset

So, it seems, we really must dig deep and change our mindset when asking for and receiving feedback from our colleagues. As ‘new age’ as it sounds, we’ve got to detach ourselves from our egos, man. Taking a more objective look at ourselves when others give us feedback, allows us to receive it more gratefully, and decide whether we want to use it to change and grow.

Let’s have a look at feedback in two stages; the giving of it. And the receivingof it.

When you are in the process of asking for feedback, try to encourage your colleagues to embrace a mindset that seeks to give helpful, honest feedback rather than critical feedback. Let them know this isn’t an opportunity to vent, it is an opportunity to help YOU to grow and improve. Communicate the end objective of their feedback is to reveal the areas you can improve, in a supportive, not a cynical or negative way. A great trick is to ask them to list something they can improve themselves, which works wonders in generating an attitude of improvement rather than judgement. Rather than saying “what do you think of me?” or “what don’t you like about me?”, ask the question “how can I do things better?”. Simply by asking the right question, you pave the way for much more positive feedback, rather than feedback that simply digs up the past and invites the firing squad. You want to solicit advice, not criticism.

Feedback is a gift

When you are in the position of receiving the feedback, firstly make sure you are in the right frame of mind. Let go of your defences and brace yourself for some revelations and remember that you are a human being who isn’t perfect. If the people giving you the feedback are your subordinates, they are probably feeling somewhat vulnerable themselves so don’t make them feel any more uncomfortable. It’s important to receive the feedback graciously and gratefully. Viewing the feedback as valuable insights into how you can improve, will help you appreciate the person going out on a limb to give you the feedback and to thank them for their ‘gift’. And keep in mind, you can still take or leave the feedback as you see fit. If you don’t agree with it, simply thank them, push it to the side and carry on as you were.

Giving and receiving feedback is one of the most difficult, yet most necessary part of communicating in the workplace. I would love to help you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’ll share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate to get in touch today.

Share News