Giving and Receiving Feedback

dreamstime_m_31763616-compressor.jpg As soon as someone says “feedback”, most people think ‘negative and criticism’. This is a harmful mindset. From now on when you hear ‘feedback’, you should think ‘information’- information that helps people perform better, learn and build their skills, change their behaviours when necessary and ultimately understand the outcome of their actions. It is also a way of praising and appreciating someone depending on the content of the feedback.

One of the consistent behaviours that high performing teams demonstrate is the ability to give and receive feedback effectively. However, it is critical that we focus on the manner of receiving and delivering feedback to gain the positive outcome that we are looking for. How does the term ‘information’ instead of ‘feedback’ change the way you think about it?

Receiving Feedback

Many people do not like to receive feedback because they find themselves getting defensive and feel like it’s a ‘personal attack’. Within a team, it is very important for you to learn how to receive feedback effectively before you deliver feedback to other team members. Described below are key practices to assist you in receiving feedback;

  1. Focus on the content of the feedback
  2. Stay calm and attentive to the feedback
  3. Acknowledge the other person’s concerns
  4. Avoid defending your actions, over explaining or making internal excuses
  5. Welcome these suggestions

Feedback You Would Like To Receive

How often have you received feedback that you did not like, or that you felt was not presented in the best way for you? This might be both constructive as well as positive feedback, for example, do you get embarrassed when presented with feedback in public?

The most common mistakes when delivering feedback

  • The feedback judges individuals, not actions. If you say to someone “You were too abrasive, “or “You need to be a better team player,” you send a strong message about what you think is “right” or “wrong” and that you’ve judged this person as falling short of expectations.
  • The feedback is too vague.
  • The feedback speaks for others. To say something like “everyone is telling me that you think I am always telling you what to do even though I’m not your manager”. It will result in a defensive response and broken relationships
  • The feedback is exaggerated with generalities. Another key mistake is using language like “always” and “never”. Hearing these words people naturally get defensive as they can remember plenty of times when they did not do what you claim they did.
  • The feedback uses inappropriate humour. If giving feedback is uncomfortable to you, or if you sometimes speak without thinking, you might use sarcasm as a substitute for feedback. But saying “good afternoon”, to a fellow team member who is ten minutes late, doesn’t tell that person how that behaviour affected you or provide reasons to change that behavior.

Delivering effective feedback

Feedback must be unemotional. Choose a time when you’re calm and the other person is likely to be receptive to what you have to say.

Feedback must be prompt. It is of little consequence to know the results of an action that took place a month, a week or a day a go.

Feedback must be objective and specific. Concentrate on the specific behaviours that you have observed that you would like to see change

Feedback must be direct. If you give constructive feedback on behaviours to people, don’t sugar-coat it by adding positive feedback. When it’s time to praise, do so. When it’s time to give feedback, do so and if you keep your balance of feedback heavier on the positive side, it won’t be comfortable to confront team members on the things that need improvement.

Make it meaningful. Keep it to the point and based on facts, not hearsay. If you are not sure about the facts then find out.

Ensure it is constructive. Aim to be helpful, not hurtful. Even negative feedback can be delivered in a positive way. Use objective, neutral words to avoid confrontations and to prevent your feedback from being taken personally.

Be empathetic. Be considerate and relate your comments to the Team Member’s point of view. Make it clear that your feedback is not a personal criticism or reflection on them as a person.

You can’t force people to change: you can only bring something to their attention and point out what they can do to change their behaviour. Think of feedback as sharing ideas rather than giving orders or advice.


Want to learn to effectively communicate with your retail team? The ARA Retail Institute provides leading accredited training options including the Certificate III in Retail Operations.


Find more information about the services provided by The ARA Retail Institute here.



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