Whether you’re an individual contributor or a manager leading a team of individuals, effective feedback is crucial in the workplace. But what constitutes a quality feedback? What are the various types of feedback, and how do they apply in the workplace?
While the article below is by no means exhaustive, it lists out a few types of feedback that are primarily seen at the workplace.
But first address the fundamental question.
What Is Feedback?
In the context of feedback, effective is constructive. In practical terms, constructive feedback is a specific piece of advice that addresses a particular issue. Constructive feedback thrives on actionable observations.
At a very broad level, workplace feedback can be classified into four main categories:
- Negative feedback: Feedback regarding past behaviour that did not yield desired results or ended up worsening the situation. Here, the focus is on learning from the past behaviour and ensuring that it is corrected into the future. For example,
- My recommendation for making future meetings more productive, would be to stay away from trying to squeeze in too much information in the slides.
- Positive feedback: Feedback regarding past behaviour that ended up producing desired results or impacted the desired outcome positively. Here, while the past successful behaviour is praised stress is also on continuing that into the future. For example,
- The kind of preparation & background analysis that went into the number crunching was amazing. Going forward extend this method to our services business line as well.
- Negative feedforward: Message that helps the subject avoid a few unwanted behaviours. While the individuals have not necessarily committed such mistakes in the past, this feedback is more prescriptive in nature. Prescription, of course, is based on the information that one already has.
- Let us avoid analysis paralysis for such meetings. They are meant to help us come out with a decisive plan.
- Positive feedforward: Again, a prescriptive form of message that helps individuals achieve desired goals with a planned set of actions. Past behaviour is not an anchor on this one as well. For example,
- The 5 why analysis method seems to be appropriate. Let us use it from the next discussion onwards.
Types Of Feedback
Apart from the above broad classification, feedback can be categorised based on the underlying tone & intent. Again, the list is not really exhaustive but indicative of variations.
- Personal anecdotes
- Focus on the future
For employees, appreciation is one of the most motivating type of feedback. For managers, it’s also one of the easiest! It is a low-cost tactic enjoyed by both sides of equation – team member as well as manager.
Appreciation In The Workplace
A simple positive comment regarding an employee’s performance can go a long way toward building a healthy relationship. Likewise, a positive, appreciative remark toward one’s manager never goes amiss. Underlying assumption is that this appreciation is sincere & not done just for the sake of it.
Try some of the following:
- Simple recognition goes a long way. If a job is done well, mention it. Stick to specifics and keep it casual. ‘This conclusion is great, by the way’ is much better than a stoic ‘You performed well.’
- Be authentic and honest. True appreciation is often organic and spur-of-the-moment.
- Use names when thanking people. It may seem like a small thing, but is a great way to build relationships. Use them!
Employees and managers alike are, first and foremost, people. Encouragement always boosts motivation, regardless of one’s role or position in the company. Simple encouragement goes a long way toward inspiring dedication and enthusiasm.
Encouragement In The Workplace
Encouragement really shines when it comes to new hires (or employees taking on new tasks). Everyone is a little out of their element when starting out something new— it’s normal—and a dash of vocal encouragement helps.
Try some of the following:
- Peek in periodically to see the learning process in action. Avoid hovering—helicopter micromanagement is a big no-no—but show your team that you are invested in the process.
- Encourage vocally with a “You can do it!” and reap the rewards. Small gestures matter when it comes to building relationships.
Relationships are everything when it comes to workplace feedback. The closer the relationship between the manager and team member, more effective the feedback. Personal anecdotes and stories are a fantastic way to develop shared experiences.
Personal Anecdotes In The Workplace
When giving or receiving feedback, try to bring in personal experiences. Shared, relatable experiences are one of the primary ways managerial staff and employees bond.
Try some of the following:
- Connect with your employees with the classic “I remember when my boss asked me to…” Use your own personal experiences to show your employees that, yes, you once dealt with similar issues.
- Facilitate effective feedback by using your own experiences to empathise with the other person. Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and use your best judgment.
Guidance is another brilliant feedback type. When giving feedback, ask them whether they have any queries or want to bounce off some ideas. Do not spoon feed them unnecessarily but be open to guiding them whenever required.
Guidance In The Workplace
When using guidance as a feedback type, try some of the following:
- Emphasize “I” over “You”. Imagine someone comes up to you and starts a sentence with “You need…” or “You should…” That is a fantastic way to immediately alienate another worker. When giving guidance, use phrases like “I think that…” or “I suggest trying…”
- Pair guidance with appreciation. Try phrases like “This chart is fantastic and I would suggest using an additional graph here to illustrate…”
When giving feedback, remember the overarching goal: inspire a positive future outcome. If you’re giving feedback to someone, there’s little reason to dwell on the past. For feedback to be contextual, past work does need to be considered. But instead of fixating on the mistakes, focus instead on the learning achieved from them.. Use it to set the stage—establish context—but only so far as to inspire a better future outcome.
The Role of the Forward Looking Feedback In Workplace
Try some of the following techniques:
- Don’t dwell on mistakes. People are human and humans make mistakes. Dwelling on mistakes beyond what it is necessary for error correction is incredibly discouraging.
- Pair feedback with personal anecdotes. No one is perfect and nothing humanizes mistakes more than showing your own personal errors.
- Ask the person receiving feedback about what changes should be made at your end to facilitate improvements.
Upward feedback is a type of feedback that does not come easy to many people. It is a process where direct reports provide feedback to their managers. Think of upward feedback as a way to solicit employee feedback regarding the managerial process.
Upward Feedback In The Workplace
Upward feedback is remarkably effective at boosting managerial performance. However, many employees are uncomfortable owing to fear of backlash or biased performance reviews.. Try some of the following techniques to help address this:
- Embrace anonymity and develop a system where employees can submit truly anonymous feedback. You want employees to speak their minds, not stifle their opinions.
- For employees giving feedback, keep it practical and specific. The more direct, actionable feedback you give, the better. And, of course, keep the feedback restricted to work performance only.
Negative Feedback (Avoid!)
Negative feedback or criticism is ineffective at improving workplace performance. Employees and managers alike do not respond well to negative feedback. Avoid this feedback method! When necessary, use past mistakes only to provide context for future improvement
Negative Feedback In The Workplace
Negative feedback in the workplace typically looks something like this:
- An employee is called in to discuss their work performance.
- Their manager outlines the incorrect behaviour and tells the employee to fix it.
- The employee leaves, disheartened and discouraged.
This is one of the worst ways—if not the worst—to give feedback. When pointing out employee mistakes, it’s vital to not dwell on them and to provide a path of positive action. Appreciate, encourage, relate, and guide: don’t criticize.
The Bottom Line: Keep It Positive
Positive, helpful feedback is the best way to establish a culture of feedback. Whether you’re a manager or an employee, the message is the same: people respond well to praise, encouragement, and guidance. Focus on encouraging future positive behaviour and don’t dwell on the past.
It’s not the easiest thing to achieve. But a company culture that prides itself on healthy feedback and positivity, that’s invaluable.