The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback


Feedback is a powerful tool to help a team perform better and to continuously improve ways of working and learning. Research show that companies where feedback is used efficiently has higher productivity and better results than companies that don’t. But as we all know, feedback can be quite tricky and it’s more difficult than we think to give and receive feedback.

In my last blog post, I wrote about a resent study showing that leaders are uncapable of rating their own work effort and performance. What leaders think they do does not add up to what they actually do, and this includes giving feedback to employees. In the study, leaders thought they spent 40 % of their time giving feedback to employees. In reality, it turns out, leaders only spend 0-2 % of their time on giving feedback. Read more about this here.

Furthermore, several studies have suggested that positive feedback must outnumber negative feedback by at least five to one in order to support better performance. The combination of leaders giving very little feedback to employees and the need for more positive feedback compared to negative calls for a change.

But don’t worry, now that you are aware of this, there are several ways to better master the art of giving and receiving feedback. First, it’s important to clarify the reason why you are giving feedback. The purpose of giving feedback should always be to improve the employee’s performance onwards. Feedback should never be given to others to benefit your own needs, rather it should be used to help the person you are giving feedback to grow.

If given appropriately, feedback can be a precious gift. Hence, giving feedback really is about mentoring. Good mentors always strive to make their students better than themselves, and use feedback as a powerful instrument to make it happen. I’ll give you some useful tips in the art of giving and receiving feedback:


The golden rules of giving feedback:

  • Ask questions that will stimulate the receiver to think for them selves before giving the message e.g. “how do you think you’re doing so far?” It gives the recipient a chance to settle in and mentally prepare for feedback. It also includes them into getting ownership of the dialogue. Try not to provide solutions or tell them what to do, rather, get them to realize it themselves.
  • Take your time to cool down and never give any feedback when you’re in an emotional state. If the receiver percepts you like angry or irritated he/she will go into a defense mode and stop listening to what you really have to say.
  • Chose your words carefully. This includes planning for how you will present your feedback – it is especially important if it is criticism in any way. Avoid words like “but”. Make the feedback motivating for the receiver. Describe clearly and understandable, don’t try to smooth it over.
  • Focus on improvements. There is a huge difference in being told what to do more of, rather than what to stop doing. Feedback should always be constructive.
  • Timing is everything. Always wait until you are alone with the recipient. Never give feedback in front of other colleagues (unless it’s only positive). A suggestion is to book a short one-to-one meeting in advance to prepare the recipient for the feedback.
  • Even if you do everything right, expect a certain amount of defensiveness as a first response to the critique. Give the person some space – the behavioral change might come later on when the feedback is reflected upon.


Golden rules for receiving feedback:

  • Try to avoid being emotional and let yourself remain relaxed and cool. Even if it’s hard, try not to act in defense and think through before you respond. Sometimes the best response to hearing negative feedback is to be quiet.
  • Also avoid being sarcastic or confrontational. It will only make the situation worse. What would happen if you show some empathy to the giver? Consider yourself in their shoes – it’s not easy to give feedback either.
  • Consider the feedback you receive as if you would have noticed it on your own. This can be very difficult but it will help you to not miss out on good opportunities to develop your skills further.
  • Try not to take negative feedback too personally. Don’t exaggerate the negative feedback out of proportion – not everything you do is wrong!
  • Develop the dialogue. You can do this by asking the giver to be more specific using questions e.g. “tell me what you are not happy about in the report”? See it as an opportunity to learn.
  • If you feel it is the wrong time or place for you to receive feedback – perhaps you are stressed or on the go – just ask to receive your feedback at another time and in private. Arrange for a one-to-one meeting. Your colleagues do not need to hear what’s between you and the person giving feedback.
  • In the end, conclude the received feedback to clarify any misconceptions between the two of you. It is also a way of showing that you have listened and will consider the feedback.


 Okay, so now I want you to think of a situation in the past where you have received feedback and reacted emotionally and defensive to the person giving it to you. What was it that made you react like that? Can you learn something from the situation and from your own behavior? One rule of thumb before giving feedback is to ask yourself – what would I want if I was in the other persons shoes?

I hope this post has given you some new perspectives. Do you agree with me? Do you want to add some useful tips? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

/Johanna, CMO @ Prindit

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