The Criticality of Feedback

The Criticality of Feedback

The irony of education is sometimes itself an irony (I just took a whole course on feedback). Much like education, learning how to give or receive feedback must be honed. But what happens when the feedback flow stops? I’ll give you a hint: nothing good.

What is feedback?

Our friends at Merriam-Webster note feedback as “the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source.”

In the real world of home or work, providing feedback is telling someone they’re not doing something correctly, or perhaps there’s a better way of doing something. Feedback helps us improve (aside from practicing).

Why is feedback so important?

The act of giving and receiving feedback provides mutual benefits in a business setting:

1. Personal and Professional Growth: Think of feedback as a tool, not just a conversation. As a supervisor, peer, or co-worker, you can use this tool and help others evaluate themselves, their work performance, and how others perceive them and their work. Leadership should also consider asking for feedback. Many don’t, and I think they’d be surprised if they did.

2. Organizational Growth: As an organization, proper feedback loops will drive organizational growth. Imagine a workplace where everyone just did their job without anyone providing insight into what they/others could do or change to improve things.

When we’re encouraged to share our insights and concerns, it opens the door to innovative solutions, better decision-making, and self-reflection.

3. Boosts Employee Motivation and Engagement: Giving proper feedback will promote a sense of self-efficacy. That is, if you told me (constructively) that there’s a better way of doing something, and I try it- finding out you’re correct- you’ve just increased my capacity to do something.

According to actitime, in well-developed, feedback-rich cultures, co-workers emphasize personal accountability, work out their emotions, and effectively resolve interpersonal conflicts. As a consequence of such attitudes and cooperation, collective productivity can drastically increase.

Who gives who feedback?

As I mentioned above, almost anyone can and should be able to give feedback. Managers, peers, customers, subordinates, or that person in the mirror (you) are all expected to be able to provide feedback.

The failure begins when no feedback is provided. Without it, an individual (or entire group) may continue “doing their job” the way they have been doing it- even if it’s wrong. We’re not very good judges of our work (hence why we ask people to review things). However, if one is aware of an issue, we are (can be) great at giving oneself corrections. It’s an essential tool for personal and professional development.

Types of feedback

I’ve had the better part of the last three days to look at so many resources for this article I couldn’t fit everything in here (I added some sites to check out at the end). However, here are ten types of feedback we can use to get the message across.

  1. Appreciation feedback: This type of feedback recognizes and acknowledges an employee’s good work and contributions to the organization1.
  2. Guidance feedback: This type of feedback provides direction and advice to help an employee improve their performance1.
  3. Encouragement feedback: This type of feedback motivates and inspires employees to continue their excellent work and improve their performance2.
  4. Forward feedback: This type focuses on future goals and objectives and provides suggestions for achieving them2.
  5. Peer feedback: This type of feedback is given by colleagues and can be used to improve collaboration and teamwork3.
  6. Coaching feedback: This type of feedback is a more structured approach to providing guidance and support to employees to help them improve their performance4.
  7. Informal feedback: This feedback is given spontaneously and can be positive or negative. It can be provided by anyone in the organization4.
  8. Formal feedback: This type of feedback is more structured and is usually given during performance reviews or other scheduled events4.
  9. Customer feedback: This type of feedback is received from customers and can be used to improve products and services2.
  10. Self-feedback: This type of feedback is provided by oneself and can be used to reflect on one’s performance, behavior, and actions to improve personal and professional growth.

Giving effective feedback (how to)

I’ve been told once or twice by peers that “I don’t know how to give feedback.” One person even told me, “I don’t give feedback.” (<- not the way to do it…)

So, to get over the hump of “how,” here’s a few ideas on how to give well-meaning and good feedback:

  1. Be specific: Feedback should focus on the behavior or action that needs improvement. Avoid generalizations or vague statements that can be misinterpreted. For example, telling someone they could do better at their job might be a good start, but it would be better for them if you noted that “you could do your job a lot better if you started your meetings on time.”
  2. Be timely: Feedback should be given immediately after the behavior or action. Delayed feedback is much less effective and may not be as well-received.
  3. Be constructive: Feedback should be given constructively, focusing on the behavior or action that needs improvement rather than the person. Use positive language and avoid criticism or negative comments.
  4. Be actionable: Feedback should be actionable, providing clear steps or suggestions for improvement. Avoid giving feedback that is too general or vague.
  5. Be open to feedback: Feedback is a two-way street, and it’s also essential to be available to receive feedback. Please encourage others to provide feedback and be willing to listen and act on it.

What happens when feedback isn’t given?

Feedback is essential to not only improving ones/your performance but it also ensures that people know they’re doing their job correctly or they’re not. If someone isn’t told they’re doing their work incorrectly, they’ll keep doing what they’re doing- even if it’s wrong. This is why it’s so imperative for peers and leaders to give prompt and helpful feedback. Nothing good comes from hearing nothing.

While blaming “the boss” is easy, the employee’s inherent responsibility is to seek feedback. Conversely, the supervisor should make time available if a subordinate is asking for feedback.

That noted, there are some common reasons why feedback isn’t given or sought.

1. Lack of time: Managers and employees may lack time to provide or receive feedback. To get past this, have a dedicated weekly or fortnightly standing meeting.

2. Not recognizing a need for improvement: Some managers may not recognize the need for improvement or may not know how to provide constructive feedback.

3. Fear of giving or receiving feedback: Some managers and employees may feel uncomfortable giving or receiving feedback, especially if it is negative or critical.

4. Poor communication: Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of clarity around feedback.

5. Lack of training: Managers and employees may not have received adequate training on how to give and receive feedback effectively.

6. Cultural issues: In some organizations, there may be a culture of blame or punishment, which can discourage employees from giving or receiving feedback.

Wrap up

To wrap it up, feedback is critical for personal and professional growth, organizational growth, and employee motivation and engagement. It provides mutual benefits in a business setting and can be given by almost anyone, including managers, peers, customers, subordinates, or, yes, oneself.

And finally, while giving feedback via email, messenger, or text is doable, remember that receiving negative news via a means other than face-to-face will almost always be taken wrong. I hate to be that guy and bust out a study, but, according to published work in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology5, face-to-face feedback is more likely to be perceived as sincere and trustworthy than feedback given through digital communication. Even a call or video chat is better than email.


Sources

1 Types of Feedback and Ways to Use Them (With Examples) – BetterUp https://www.betterup.com/blog/types-of-feedback

2 7 Types of Feedback For the Workplace (and One to Avoid) – Leaders.com https://leaders.com/articles/business/types-of-feedback/

3 Different Types of Feedback and How to Use Them – School of Meaningful Experiences https://www.some.education/blog/different-types-of-feedback-and-how-to-use-them

10 Types of feedback every Manager needs to Know – Valamis https://www.valamis.com/hub/types-of-feedback

5 The Impact of Communication Medium on Lying” by Jeffrey T. Hancock, Catalina L. Toma, and Kate Fenner, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2008.

Other sites to check out:

• The importance of feedback in the workplace – CultureMonkey https://www.culturemonkey.io/employee-engagement/the-importance-of-feedback-in-the-workplace/

• How to Give Feedback People Can Actually Use – Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2017/10/how-to-give-feedback-people-can-actually-use