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How do I give and receive feedback at work?

Hannah Johnston

Feb 8, 2024
min read

We caught up with Sophie Edwards, Head of People & Culture at Assignar for her tips on how to best give and receive feedback at work.

Have you ever felt like giving feedback is just an ‘awkward’ topic of conversation and receiving feedback is just something you run from? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

We recently sat down with people and culture expert, Sophie Edwards to get her best tips on the challenges most people face when it comes to feedback. Sophie has been in the world of people for over a decade and holds a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology. 

In this blog, you’ll learn about the importance of feedback in your career and how to navigate the common challenges of giving and receiving feedback.  

Let’s dive in! 

Why is seeking feedback important in your early career?

Feedback is critically important for everyone in every role because it's how we learn and develop skills. The best way to learn and develop a new skill is to practice it and get feedback and coaching from someone who's an expert in the field. 

Early in your career, there's a lot to learn, and seeking feedback broadens your awareness of your strengths, limitations, and blind spots. It helps you understand how others see you and develop self-awareness, which is crucial for growth.

Why do people find it challenging to receive feedback?

Receiving feedback can be challenging, as our brains are not naturally wired to love negative feedback. We respond to mental and emotional threats the same way we respond to physical threats. Our heart rate starts to beat faster so that we are ready to run, we get the stress hormone cortisol so that we can respond fast, our breath gets faster and our palms a little sweaty.

Receiving feedback can become particularly challenging when the person delivering the feedback focuses on personal attributes rather than behavioural ones. This is usually a result of a lack of training on how to give feedback well. 

How do you navigate the common challenges of receiving feedback?

The first step is realising the benefits that come with feedback, and that you cannot grow without feedback. It’s also important to acknowledge that receiving feedback isn’t easy and feeling uneasy about it doesn’t make you weak or insecure. 

Your early career in particular should be a huge time for growth. How you spend your early career is a really big predictor of how you spend your mid to late career. If you spend it in a feedback-rich, growth-fueled environment, you’ll just skyrocket your career. 

There are some good techniques to help put you into a good mindset to receive feedback like grounding yourself and setting up the environment to receive feedback for success. 

🧘‍♀️Ground yourself 

A great way to counteract the stress response is to take slow, deliberate breaths, plant your feet on the ground and lower your shoulders. This tells your body that the crisis is over and helps you come to a good baseline. You can practice affirmations like ‘There is something helpful for me in this’ or ‘This is for my growth’. 

Another technique to consider is writing things down as you go. Often when we experience a heightened stress response we forget most feedback that is given to us. Writing things down can be a great way to recall the feedback later, take breaks and show the manager that you care about what they have to say. 

⭐️ Set yourself up for success

We all have different ways that we prefer to receive feedback and we should be open about this, particularly if we have a good relationship with our manager. You might prefer to receive feedback in person, on a walk or be given a transparent heads-up about the context of the conversation beforehand. For example, you might be a creative who strongly dislikes receiving feedback via just comments on a doc and you’d rather have a quick sync on it. 

If you look at feedback in the context of your personal life, it can be easier to have dialogue feedback when you’re cooking dinner or something not like sitting directly across from each other in a cold environment. You may also prefer to receive feedback on a regular cadence, rather than all at once. Often managers will have 1:1’s already in place to help facilitate this kind of dialogue. 

How do you provide feedback to peers on your team?

Providing feedback to peers can be challenging due to power dynamics. One approach is to frame feedback as observations and an open dialogue about how the team can improve collectively. Modelling feedback and creating a culture of open communication within the team can also help facilitate peer feedback.

A good example of how this can be done is hosting regular retros with your team where you pause, and openly discuss things that are working well, what’s not working so well, and how you can improve. 

How do you provide feedback to your manager?

Giving feedback upwards can be daunting, but it's essential for the team's growth and improvement. Start by assessing your manager's openness to feedback and frame your feedback as observations rather than criticism. Keep the dialogue open and focus on behaviour rather than personal attributes.

For example, to keep the conversation a dialogue, you can share a bit of feedback with them and then ask them what their experience of that was, rather than just yours. It’s about keeping the conversation in discovery and testing the waters to see how they respond to feedback. 

Something that can be tricky to navigate in your early career is not having all the business context on particular decisions being made. This is why having that dialogue conversation is important to get a better understanding of the context behind decision-making. 

Giving feedback to managers can feel emotional, but it's crucial to keep emotions in check and focus on constructive communication. Avoiding emotionally driven statements and framing feedback as opportunities for growth can help maintain a positive dialogue with your manager.

For example, rather than saying ‘You never support me’, maybe it’s something more like ‘This is my observation and here’s how I love receiving support, perhaps that’s something you could consider for next time’. 

Wrapping up 

Giving and receiving feedback isn’t easy, for a variety of reasons. However, with practice, and the right techniques, feedback can soon become your career growth bestie. 

❤️ Hatch Fam

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