Workplace Essentials

Giving & Receiving Feedback

In this chapter you’ll learn how to give useful, skilful feedback that supports and encourages your colleagues. You’ll also learn how to accept and implement feedback to advance yourself and your career.

Guiding Questions

As you go through this chapter look for the answers to these questions:

  1. Why is good feedback important at school and in the workplace?
  2. What seven qualities make feedback useful and effective?
  3. What’s an easy three-step method for giving feedback?
  4. What five things can I do to accept and learn from feedback?

Why is Effective Feedback Important?

Effective feedback helps us improve and grow. Good feedback describes areas for improvement and offers ways to improve. Being able to give clear, useful feedback is an employability skill. Colleagues and bosses will appreciate your kind, helpful approach to improving teams and processes.

Shows us what we don’t know about ourselves

Effective feedback often tells us things we don’t know about ourselves. Sometimes it’s physical – like speaking too fast. Or it could be a mistake in our work that we’re not aware of. Effective feedback helps us see our Blind Spots. When we see them we can start to improve.

Johari Window

The Johari Window explains self-awareness as a quadrant:

  1. Open: What we know about ourselves, and is also known by others
  2. Blindspot: What we don’t know about ourselves, but is known by others
  3. Hidden: What we know about ourselves, but is not known by others.
  4. Unknown: What we don’t know about ourselves, and is not known by others.1
Johari window diagram: Open, blind spot, Hidden and unknown

How to Give Feedback

Make sure anything you say is effective. Effective feedback has 7 qualities:

  1. Timely: Give feedback as soon as possible after the occurrence
  2. Kind: Help the recipient grow and build skills; don’t embarrass or shame them
  3. Positive: Tell the recipient what to do, not what not to do
  4. Honest: Always tell the truth (kindly!), even when a lie would feel more comfortable
  5. Useful: Make suggestions that are practical and actionable
  6. Brief: Focus on only 1 improvement – the most important one. (More will confuse the recipient)
  7. Specific: Be precise and give examples

7 qualities of effective feedback: timely, kind, positive, honest, useful, brief and specific

The easy 3-step method

There are many ways to give feedback. This simple 3-step method is easy to remember and use.

Keep-improve-ask feedback model

  1. Keep: Start by describing the best part: What’s good; what did the person do well – what should they keep doing?
  2. Improve: Describe the most important improvement, and why it’s important. Focus on ‘next time’ or ‘in future.’ For example, Next time, try to let us know before the deadline. That way we can help you before it’s a problem. Or Next time, try to speak louder, so everyone can hear your great ideas.
  3. Ask: the recipient if they have questions, if what you said makes sense.

How to Receive Feedback

We often feel ashamed or embarrassed when receiving feedback. Most of us have a really mean inner critic who yells at us for not being perfect. This makes it hard to listen and learn.

When someone offers feedback, try to silence your inner critic so that you can benefit from the ideas and support. These strategies will help:

How to receive feedback-listen, respect, ask, appreciate, reflect, grow

1. Listen actively.

  • Make eye contact with the person giving you feedback
  • Take notes – you’ll forget what they said
  • Summarize what they said

2. Be respectful & professional.

  • Avoid arguing, defending or explaining; try to drop your defences
  • Watch your tone, words and body language
  • Look for what’s true and what’s useful

3. Ask questions to clarify doubts and get precise details and examples.

For example:

  • Can you say more about…?
  • Can you explain that further, please?
  • What advice can you give me?
  • How can I build that skill?
  • Where could I learn more about…?
  • What do you recommend?

4. Appreciate the feedback.

  • See the speaker’s good intentions
  • Thank the speaker and show appreciation for their time and energy
  • Look for what’s useful in the feedback and how it can help you

5. Reflect & grow.

  • Reflect on the feedback and decide your next steps:
    • What did you learn?
    • How will you use the feedback to improve your skills?
    • What will you do next time?

   Self-Assessment 

 

 Canadian Workplace Quiz 


  1. Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, “The johari window,” Human relations training news 5, no. 1 (1961): 6-7, http://www.richerexperiences.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Johari-Window.pdf

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Professional Business Practice by Lucinda Atwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.