How to Give Feedback the Right Way

How to give feedback the right way

Ah, feedback. A word that can send a shudder up the spine, cause sweaty palms, create anxiety, or send even the most emotionally intelligent person into a frenzy. And that applies to the person giving feedback, as well as the person receiving it.

So what’s going on? Well, the term has always been associated with reviewing a situation that went wrong, and for years corporate culture has been working to remove the stigma of giving feedback as a necessary evil. It’s true, feedback doesn’t have to be painful, but at its core, feedback is a human interaction and this can be complicated.

To help make the process less complicated, here are five articles on how to give feedback in a constructive and meaningful way.

1. Everything you know about giving feedback could be wrong.

I’m starting with the most powerful article I’ve seen on how to manage effectively with feedback. This interview with Marcus Buckingham for The Washington Post is clear: management is messy and humans aren’t perfect. For more insight into his methodology and an excerpt from his book, head over to this Harvard Business Review article.

2. How to make it safe for your team to give you feedback.

As this article for Entrepreneur clearly explains, it’s your responsibility to create an environment that encourages people to speak their minds. The author also goes into behavior profiles like the Bureaucrat, the Blue Blood, and the Glory Keeper that prevent healthy feedback from happening.

3. The psychology behind better workplace feedback.

This blog post from Cognology discusses the 15 surprising facts around the psychology of behavior. The first fact: people don’t take feedback from someone they don’t trust. Truth!! The list only gets better after that.

4. How to give constructive feedback in the workplace. 

This article by David Rodeck for ADP gives a straightforward outline for how to prepare to deliver feedback in a healthy and productive way. He puts the focus on creating the right environment and ensuring your in the right mindset before starting the feedback process.

5. Highlight success and not failure. 

Ayelet Fishbach recently gave an interview for the Chicago Booth Review on learning from success vs. learning from failure. In the interview, she talks about her research, which indicates that we remember our successes better and tend not to internalize our own failures. What does this have to do with feedback? If we learn more from our successes, then providing feedback that redirects us back to those moments can be powerful.

This last one is a little controversial. My approach has always been about using positive reinforcement and strengths development to build high performance teams. There is research, however, to illustrate that taking this concept to an extreme does no good, either. Finding balance is important, but avoiding feedback or difficult conversations only creates bigger problems down the road. Ask yourself how you can step out of your comfort zone to have a productive conversation. Where can you start small? Then build from there.


Christina Holloway