How to Receive Feedback at Work: A 5 Step Guide

Learning how to receive feedback at work is not easy for most people. It is a learned skill and can be uncomfortable and awkward. However, feedback will help you grow in your career. Through these conversations, you can learn what you need to improve on. It can initially feel foreign and new, but ultimately constructive feedback is an investment in your future.

Feedback is a gift

I struggled to receive feedback until I reframed feedback as a gift. I would initially downplay the feedback or cut people off mid-sentence. After some coaching and mentoring, I’ve learned to appreciate feedback and treasure it.

“Honesty is a very expensive gift, just don’t expect it from cheap people.”

– Warren Buffet

How to Receive Constructive Feedback

1. Stop your first reaction. Don’t get defensive

When you begin to receive feedback, stop whatever reaction you have at the moment. Sometimes, our initial response can be confusion or an unconscious shutdown of the feedback in progress.

2. Remember that feedback is a gift

Feedback is a gift and an investment of someone’s time into you. As you hear the feedback, think about the emotional energy and time the person is taking out of their day to help you improve.

3. Listen to Understand

Now that you have taken a second to pause and remember that feedback is a gift, you can proceed to understand the feedback. Focus on listening intently to follow their perspective.

4. Thank the person for the feedback

After the person has finished explaining their perspective or thoughts, thank them for their time. You don’t have to fully agree with them, but it’s important to acknowledge their investment in your future.

5. Follow Up

After the Zoom meeting or coffee chat has finished, follow up with a note or a summary of the discussion. For significant topics, a follow up meeting with your manager might be the right next steps.

Conversation Techniques You Can Use

1. Ask Questions

  • “Can you give me specific examples of what you were referencing?”
  • “Is this the first time you are noticing this behavior?”
  • “How did that make you feel?”

2. Mirror back information to have the other person expand on their points

Mirroring is a technique you can use to repeat back the last 2-3 words or parts of a sentence to have the other person expand on a point.

3. Summarize Takeaways

Summarizing takeaways and action items are a great way to make you sure you are aligned on what the other person said.

Example:

So “John are you saying that Oreo production is slowing down 20% because I ate all the Oreos I made? I had no idea but I’ll stop doing that. ” 

4. Not every feedback session is valuable but there is some truth in every feedback

While not every feedback or recommendation is useful or correct, there is some truth in why that person gave that insight.

For example, someone may have commented on your lack of documentation. However, did they not know that you kept your documentation somewhere else. Is it a more significant problem regarding folder organization at your company?

Additional Reading

Kim Scott’s “Radical Candor” Ted Talk

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