Feedback is a great opportunity for further development. However, for it to be useful, feedback must be perceived as an opportunity and communicated constructively. The person giving feedback should be aware that negative feedback in particular could provoke an emotional reaction in the other person, such as denial, resistance, anger or tears. In order to avoid this, you will find some tips below for both giving and receiving feedback.
When receiving feedback
To benefit from feedback, you should look at the context and the feedback as objectively as possible. The first step is not to overreact, but to listen carefully and simply take note of the criticism. It helps to write down any criticism you receive so that you can study it again later with a calm mind. Do not immediately try to justify yourself or start coming up with rebuttals. Instead, take a step back by differentiating between the person and the issue at hand. The second step is honest reflection. It helps if you have taken notes during the conversation and can review each point of criticism again. If the other person is right, take the feedback as an opportunity for personal development. However, if the criticism is inappropriate or incomprehensible and it is not a minor issue, it is worth addressing the situation.
Ask more questions to better understand comment’s meaning and motivation. For example, you might be interested in the specific situations the feedback pertains to, how often the criticised behaviour occurs or whether the other person can give you an example. Afterwards, you could discuss the matter from your point of view. The aim of the interaction should be to have a constructive conversation.
- Feedback does not always have to be negative - after all, it is also important to know your own strengths. So if you receive positive feedback, accept it appreciatively!
Don't forget to thank others for constructive feedback. This can be done immediately after the conversation or after a certain period of time. This will increase the other person's willingness to invest time and energy into giving valuable feedback more often and thus contribute to your further development. Also, don’t be afraid to actively seek out feedback. Just make sure to not do this when the other person is already overly stressed. Finally, it is worthwhile to regularly reflect on your own work or behaviour. You could ask yourself how you acted, what you did well or how you would like to do things better next time.
When giving feedback
If done correctly, constructive criticism can be successfully conveyed. Preparation plays an important role in this. The feedback discussion should not be conducted in emotional, stressful situations or in passing. Instead, the discussion should always take place in a one-on-one setting and be arranged several days in advance so that both sides have enough time to prepare.
To achieve the greatest benefit, you should conduct the conversation in a calm and objective manner and the feedback itself should be concrete and related to a specific situation. Since positive feedback increases not only motivation but also acceptance of criticism, you should be careful to not only give negative feedback. However, it is important not to mix praise and criticism so as not to dilute your message.
- Only criticise things that can be changed and use unambiguous wording. Always speak from a first-person perspective and avoid comparisons between employees, exaggerations or generalisations ("never" / "always"). Underline your statements with the appropriate intonation and body language.
- Less is more: During the conversation, focus on the essential points where you would like to see improvement. Otherwise, the other person might feel overwhelmed and reject your criticism out of hand. Also, remember to give the other person time to process and act on the feedback.
You should not expect your counterpart to immediately agree with you on all points. However, if you want to increase acceptance, it can be helpful to explain why a piece of work was not good or a behaviour was not appropriate and to work together to find the reasons for the behaviour and a suitable solution. This is where your preparation comes into play: Think in advance about what your concrete expectations are and what potential measures could help achieve those expectations. When discussing on how to proceed, you should first listen to the other person's suggestions before making your own. This allows the other person to be involved and thus a more effective and sustainable solution can be found. Also offer your support and arrange a direct follow-up meeting to discuss further developments.
After the meeting, you should always reflect on how the meeting went and what agreements were made. Try to learn from this and make the next feedback session (even) better.
Structure of a feedback meeting
Small talk is a good way to start the conversation. After the general job satisfaction has been assessed, you should analyse what went well, what did not go well and where difficulties arose. Don’t forget to check whether previously set goals have been achieved - and if not, then why. Next, define which further steps are to be taken. This also includes the possible adjustment of goals or their definitions. Measures for personal development and the employee's future opportunities in the company should also be discussed here. It is important for both sides to take notes during this key part of the conversation to document what has been agreed upon and what is expected. At the end of the conversation, it is advisable to thank each other for the time and the conversation before following up and implementing what has been discussed.
- The following applies to both feedback recipients and feedback givers: schedule enough time for the conversation! This shows appreciation and prevents a stressful atmosphere.
- If you are the leader, you should ask for feedback, too! This not only helps to develop your own leadership skills, but also, if there is a noticeable positive change in reaction to feedback, then employees will feel heard, which in turn will have a positive effect on the team climate.
Putting yourself in the other person's shoes can be a good way to better understand the other person's point of view. This change of perspective can be helpful during the whole process - from preparation to implementation and follow-up of the conversation.