The Ultimate Feedback Guide

Everything you need to know about giving and receiving feedback at work.

Jaakko Kaikuluoma

Co-founder

In any professional's life, feedback is one of the best ways to communicate appreciation and to understand how we could do better in the future. In other words, it’s essential for us to learn, grow, achieve our full potential and to remain engaged at work.

In this guide, we will share everything you need to know about feedback. Click the links to learn more, and bookmark this page to find these insights easily later.

Giving and receiving feedback may feel simple and straightforward, but this is rarely the case. In fact, giving feedback effectively is an extremely complex skill that is rarely taught in school. Interactions between people are always unique, which doesn't make it any easier. Fortunately, as with any other skill, learning to give and receive feedback is something we can practice and become better at over time. 

Contents are divided to these sections, feel free to jump into the most interesting one!

Why does everyone need feedback?

People have a need to belong, be trusted, and be valued or respected. Feedback is an important way of communicating these things. In the work context, professionals deeply desire to grow and develop, but studies have repeatedly shown that most people do not receive as much feedback as they want or need. Oftentimes when we receive feedback, it isn't delivered in the right way or in the right moment, which makes it difficult to learn from and apply.

Read more: Why we need more feedback

The three types of feedback

All feedback can be categorized into one of three types: reinforcing feedback, redirecting feedback, and evaluating feedback. The first two types, reinforcing and redirecting feedback, focus on improvement. Either encouraging the recipient’s behavior or altering their behavior. The final type, evaluating feedback, is useful for telling people how they compare against the company’s expectations, their colleagues, or some other objective point of reference. 

The terms positive feedback, negative feedback, and constructive feedback are frequently used in everyday language. However, we highly recommend using the terms reinforcing feedback and redirecting feedback instead, because these terms are usually not as strongly associated with good or bad feelings in people's minds. In theory, all feedback should be positive in the sense that it should genuinely aim at helping the other person improve. Unfortunately it doesn’t always come across that way, which is why it requires practice. 

Read more:

How to give feedback

Giving feedback is a skill that can be practiced, and in fact, very much needs to be practiced. Otherwise it’s easy to get it wrong, which will not be helpful to anyone. Poorly delivered feedback can actually have the opposite effect of hindering and discouraging others in their development by triggering them to block the feedback.

It's important to be as clear and concrete as possible when giving feedback. Focus on behavior, not on the person. Talk about concrete observations, impacts, and proposed actions. Empathize with the recipient to deliver the feedback in a way that helps them receive it. Learning the 5 Languages of Appreciation can help massively in learning to take individual preferences into account.

Read more:

Teamspective’s feedback tools guide feedback giving with structure, tips and guiding questions to help you communicate the message in a productive and easy to receive way. It’s free for personal use or teams of up to 30 people. Sign up for free here.

How to receive feedback

Just as giving feedback is a skill that needs to be practiced, we can also get better at receiving feedback. It's natural for people to block feedback, as most feedback is intuitively interpreted as criticism which undermines our core definitions of ourselves and our work. That said, to reach the top of our game, we need to overcome this mechanism so that we can accept and use the feedback we receive to become better at our jobs and more successful in the long run. 

Learning what causes people to reject feedback is also important for delivering feedback effectively; by understanding the dynamics better we can deliver feedback the right way, even when the topic is a difficult one. As nice as it is to receive reinforcing feedback and praise, also redirecting the nonoptimal behavior is critical for learning new things or developing professionally.

So, how can you receive feedback without blocking it out or taking offense to it? Learn to ask clarifying questions can help, as this allows you and the feedback giver to move towards our recommended feedback model and reach a place of mutual understanding. Closing the gap between your and the other person’s perspective helps grasp what the other party is trying to communicate, without ignoring it, blocking it out, taking offense to it, or being hurt by it.

At the end of the day, feedback is intended to be something for our benefit, to help us learn, grow, and develop professionally. When received properly, even the most negative-sounding feedback can be a powerful asset in our quest to become better. 

Read more:

How to ask for feedback

Now, it's often the case that you want to receive feedback, only to find out that people are either unwilling or unable to provide it to you for one reason or another. It’s also possible that people around you know how to give you feedback but simply aren't doing so for some reason. Regardless of your specific situation, if you are not getting enough feedback, the only solution is to ask for it

People may find it hard to give you feedback for various reasons, mostly because they are unsure about what your reaction will be. By and large, the number one reason why people are hesitant to provide (honest) feedback is that they need to work with you and are afraid of offending you or hurting your feelings. 

It’s also possible that they don’t know that you want feedback, or which specific areas you would like feedback on. It’s also possible that they want to give you feedback, but they just don’t know how you would prefer to discuss things, thus they avoid communicating any feedback to you at all. 

By asking for feedback directly, in the right way, you can make it much easier for the other person to give you useful feedback. That, in turn, helps you improve in your areas of opportunity.

Read more:

Info: You can also use Teamspective’s feedback tools to collect quality feedback from your colleagues, manager, customers etc. It’s free for personal use or teams of up to 30 people.

Written or spoken feedback?

This is a common question to which many have strong opinions on. The truth is that both types are needed, just the ideal format depends on the situation and the people involved.

You should always try your best to empathize and put yourself in the other persons' shoes, because feedback is only useful if the recipient is able to hear and accept it. The way people prefer to discuss feedback may depend on a number of different factors, including:

  • How comfortable the person is with having feedback discussions
  • How psychologically safe the person feels with you
  • Whether or not the person is okay with receiving public feedback (if in a group setting)
  • Whether they want an immediate reaction or more thorough feedback
  • Whether or not they plan to keep the feedback for future reference

Below you can see research results demonstrating other positive impacts of regular written feedback activity. In groups where people receive written feedback (in addition to other types), nearly 40% more people report high psychological safety, 30% more feel well supported, nearly 20% feel more motivated and so on.

Read more: Written vs Spoken Feedback

How much feedback should I give and get?

In terms of how much feedback you should aim to get, everyone has their own personal preferences. We recommend collecting feedback from 1-2 people every month. Asking for feedback frequently helps you keep the insights fresh and much more meaningful than if you were to only receive feedback once or twice per year, or not at all. 

Bear in mind that feedback is always just somebody else's view on things, and it's never more than that. Therefore, it’s a good idea to collect feedback from many people. Hearing many perspectives helps you separate subjective opinions from broader trends in your behavior, allowing you to notice patterns and figure out what's true and important to focus on. 

Info: Teamspective’s feedback activation integrates to your Slack or MS Teams tools and activates people to give feedback if they haven’t remembered to do it as much as recommended. Interactions are effortless when started or fully done in Slack or MS Teams.

Closing words

Feedback is vital to your success as a professional. Without receiving feedback, it can be difficult to objectively review your performance and make the adjustments that allow you to learn, grow, and develop; this is true both personally and professionally. That said, feedback is a skill, and it isn’t a skill that most people are born with. Giving and receiving actionable feedback effectively requires practice. 

When you learn to give feedback the right way, you can empower your colleagues, co-workers, and team members to become better and be the best they can be. That helps them and the company reach new heights. Likewise, when you learn to receive feedback without blocking it out or being hurt or offended by it, you can gain valuable insight into your own performance, allowing you to adjust your behaviors and ultimately become a better professional. That's what enables you to grow upwards and achieve mastery. 

We hope this guide has been helpful to you, and we wish you the very best luck both in your personal life and on your professional journey!