12 Tips For Sharing Constructive Feedback

Written by in Practices
- 5 min read

Feedback is important. It helps us to see ourselves from other perspectives, to identify skills to work on, and to receive recognition for what we did well. But when it comes to actually giving or receiving feedback , it’s not that easy.

Feedback given the wrong way can demoralize—even when done with good intentions. In a previous article, I shared how we implemented a feedback culture in our Ukrainian organization, UPTech. Here I give suggestions for sharing feedback.

1. Prepare in advance

Do not rely on memory and do not improvise. Be clear about what you’re going to say. When emotions are high, you are better sticking to a script. Avoid saying unplanned things that could hurt.

2. Time matters

Share feedback as soon as you have something to say. The earlier you share, the earlier a colleague can improve. Timely feedback is better understood and accepted. In contrast, recalling a situation from last year is very difficult.

NOTE: if a situation raised high emotions — it is better to wait until all parties have calmed down.

3. Do it regularly

There’s no point in waiting until the end of the week, month or year to tell your colleagues what you think of them. Develop the habit of doing it as often as you can. If you have something to say every day — do it! Check this article on how to implement feedback across a whole organization or group.

4. Be concrete

Discuss specific characteristics or actions. Do not generalize. It helps colleagues to remember, and to act, if needed.

Bad: “You are a good writer!” Good: “The last article you wrote about code reviews was very interesting. You are good at finding appropriate epithets and capturing the reader’s attention!”

I always ask people to give examples of a situation if they share something general.

5. Always, always start positively

You should try to make the whole process positive. A positive start helps you both to be comfortable and build confidence—even if it’s followed by tough feedback.

NOTE: Do not overuse Shit Sandwiches. They don’t seem to work. Just honestly mention positive feedback and then move to the negative.

6. Discuss max 2–3 issues

Don’t try to discuss everything. People can’t remember lots of points. Plus, after receiving feedback, there are things to digest. Allow time for this. Only then move on.

7. Ask questions

You might not know all the details, or the other person might not agree with your remarks. Be willing to admit you’re wrong if necessary. Feedback sharing is a two-way process, not a monologue.

8. Discuss an improvement plan

Suggest ways for you colleague to develop his/her strengths and deal with the weaknesses. Offering suggestions shows you care. They will appreciate it.

9. Do not criticize a person

Discuss actions instead. We all make mistakes from time to time. Do not generalize from just one: better to help them fix it.

Bad: “You are lazy!”

Good: “Your last three tasks did not go so well. You missed a deadline and made 4 mistakes. Let’s think together how we can help you to be more diligent.”

10. Relationships come first

We all share feedback with some goal in mind. You might want to improve performance, fix mistakes, or deliver projects faster. But your goal can only be achieved if you build the relationship first. Do not push too hard. Seek first to understand. Then help. If you fail to build an open relationship, you’ll most likely fail to achieve your goal.

This is a mistake I made often. I am still learning how to avoid it. Too often I was so focused on the goal I did not show empathy. The result  was  high emotion and little progress.

11. Recognize publicly, criticize privately

Public recognition works well. Public criticism does not! If you do it, people will not share the truth with you for fear you’ll criticize them publicly. This is not a psychologically safe environment and is likely to fail. Share negative feedback privately.

12. Do not overpraise

We all have much room to grow. Nobody is perfect. You don’t want a person to leave thinking: “Oh, I’m such a wonderfully lovable person”. But “Cool, I did a great job meeting the project deadline, and the team is happy. However, I need to work on improving my communication with clients.”

This advice applies to any two parties, be they managers, employees, directors, friends or spouses.

At UPTech, we taught all team members these rules and adopted “Feedback sharing Fridays”. On the last Friday of each month, each team member should exchange feedback with at least three co-workers. It doesn’t mean we share feedback only once a month. But it’s a good reminder to not forget doing it.

It works well for us. Team members do it on their own initiative, and help each other grow. It’s inspiring to see how feedback helps colleagues become better, as both professionals and people.

And last but not least: Share all feedback with love ❤.

This guest blog was written by Andriy Bas, co-founder & team lead @ UPTech, a Ukrainian-based design & development agency. Their speciality is crafting bold, customer-centric mobile & web apps. Andriy is also a programmer, writer and marathon runner. He is a strong believer in the power of corporate culture, and an evangelist for self-managed organizations. You can find him on Facebook.

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