responding to feedback

Responding Productively to Feedback

Posted June 6th, 2022

Giving and receiving feedback are valuable processes in any organisation. Feedback promotes change and growth in individuals, which subsequently boosts business performance. Moreover, if an organisation has a regular process for giving and receiving feedback, it means productivity and effectiveness are constantly being monitored.

In this sense, having feedback processes means an organisation is much better equipped with knowledge and information about performance that can be analysed for growth opportunities looking forward. Which departments are working best right now? Which employees are best poised for upcoming promotions?

That being said, being on the receiving end of constructive feedback comes with some degree of vulnerability and can be difficult. Knowing how to respond productively both in the moment and long term is very important in order to be able to make appropriate changes. This article breaks down some steps for responding well to feedback so that everyone can benefit and grow.

How can feedback be valuable?

Constructive feedback processes between employees encourage growth for both individuals and the organisation as a whole. It can help to promote employee engagement; inspire performance and build better relationships. It also offers opportunities to celebrate achievements. The list of benefits extends beyond the above, but ultimately all contribute to promoting a healthy, productive and well-performing workplace.

How should I respond to Feedback?

Of course, we must keep in mind that every single situation and interaction is different. However, the following guide revolves around a few fundamental ideas and serves as a useful starting point for effectively responding to feedback.

1. Listen

When receiving feedback, remaining quiet and resisting the urge to ‘explain yourself’ or make excuses is important. Try to put your own opinions aside and listen to their advice. Usually, they are offering you feedback that they deem beneficial to your growth.

Take a mental note of what they are saying and try to understand the intention behind the feedback (they’re probably trying to help you.) Employing active listening skills when dealing with feedback is massively beneficial, you will likely learn something!

Remember to be aware of your body language and try to avoid looking like you are ‘closed off’ to the feedback. This can happen if you fold your arms, or turn away from the person speaking.

2. Think it through

When you listen intently and don’t jump to a defensive point of view, you’ll most likely understand their perspective better. This means you will respond more efficiently when you have a chance to react. After listening to the feedback and perhaps thanking them, take a moment to process what has been said and really understand it. For example, consider the following questions…

Do you understand the reasoning behind their criticisms and suggestions (in other words, what actions of yours led to this feedback)?

Are their suggestions clear? Even if you don’t completely understand why their approach is deemed better than yours, make sure you have at least taken a clear mental note of it so you can reflect later.

3. Raise any questions

Perhaps your contemplation has raised some questions and you’re looking for some clarity. To move forward and take their feedback on board, you may require some more details or examples. When our performance is being analysed and discussed, it’s normal to feel slightly defensive, asking for examples or more information about your actions may be necessary to help you to understand the issue or opportunity for growth better.

4. Reflect and give it time

Unless the feedback you’ve received can be implemented at that very moment, requesting time to process feedback will help you take it on board in the long run.

You can use this to defuse a potentially uncomfortable situation, once you have received the feedback and any responses to your questions, you can ask for some time to process and respond at a later time if necessary. It is important to remember that your response is up to you, after some time reflecting if you disagree, consider seeking a second opinion.

5. Look forward

Having considered the feedback you have received; consider how you can make changes that are productive and responsive. Despite the likelihood that you won’t completely agree with everything, with time and consideration for how you could make positive changes going forward, you’ll likely begin to better understand their perspective.

It can be helpful to consider a time when you have given someone else feedback. Sometimes we don’t like what we hear but that may be because we have less knowledge, experience or perspective than someone else.

After creating an action plan with their feedback, you can begin to take steps to make the changes advised.

6. Maintain an open channel

If you work in an organisation with an open channel of productive communication, you will likely have a future opportunity to check back in with the giver of the feedback and see how things have changed. Regularly reviewing practices and processes is the only way to ensure they remain productive and beneficial!

It’s important to remember that feedback is always about the long-term and change is a process. It’s important to give yourself time. If there is an unhealthy pressure on you to make a change in an unattainable timeframe – this may be an unhealthy work environment!

7. Find a friend

A final point of consideration for receiving feedback is the importance of having a confidant who isn’t involved. Being able to talk openly with someone removed from the situation not only helps you deal with it emotionally but can offer you an independent perspective to help you properly process the feedback you’ve received.

This article referenced the more formal type of feedback in the workplace, but we are continually receiving and giving feedback and these steps can become a learned behaviour that we can adapt and use in even the most casual of feedback situations. It can be easy to take feedback to heart, but when we view it as a learning opportunity and become more experienced in processing and dealing with it, we become equipped with perspectives that help us grow and develop – meaning our skillsets and careers benefit in the long run.

Our Giving Feedback E-learning Course is designed to equip learners with practical tools to provide constructive feedback that causes positive change and focuses on both giving and receiving feedback. Explore our full range of feedback related training resources here.

Explore our full range of resources on our website. Or, for more information, and to discuss the learning needs of your business, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.


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