Types and Sources of Feedback in The Workplace [And Why It Is So Important]
Imagine having a job and not knowing whether you are doing well or not.
That’s exactly how it looks like when you don’t get feedback at work.
When no one criticizes you nor praises you won’t have a clue whether you are on the right way to achieve the expected goals.
Managers and team leaders should focus on providing constructive feedback in order to optimize the work of their employees as well as their own efforts.
Yet, they should always be cautious, using only accurate information when giving feedback. Otherwise, the report might be biased or even worse, completely false leading to damaging and unnecessary changes.
Why feedback in the workplace is so important
First of all, the employees’ development.
Constructive feedback is the best thing a manager can give to his employees.
Besides the pay raise, obviously…
Your employees should know whether they’re doing a good job, fulfilling the expectations, and are on the right track to hitting the pre-planned goals. The same applies when things are not going so well.
Keeping employees informed and aware of the mistakes they make is vital to their and your business’ development. What’s more, statistics show that people actually care more about negative feedback than positive. That’s because negative feedback often seems to be more genuine as it is harder to give one, thus there must be a real reason when someone’s serving you a couple of harsh words.
Also, taking into account your employees genuinely care about their job, they’ll seek solutions on how they can do better and improve, and using feedback is one of the most positive ways to improve work performance.
If you gave them constructive feedback they wouldn’t have to look further than their workplace. Employees want to know the truth, they want to be evaluated in a constructive and accurate way.
As Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at Sumo.com claims in one of his latest Noah Kagan Presents podcast episode:
“Feedback is the most powerful tool you can do as a leader.” – Noah Kagan
Another aspect of feedback is that you can easily prevent the issue of micro-management.
Whilst, micromanaging can be destructive to your business and to the efficiency of your employees, giving both regular and spontaneous feedback can be beneficial and provide you with a way of keeping your employees updated.
Feedback will also help you (yes, you!) improve your job as a sales manager or a team leader. Thus, it is important to get to know the real feedback definition.
That’s because by constantly evaluating your employees’ effectiveness and quality of their work you’ll be better at optimizing the workflow as well as using the right resource when needed.
Your employees will be thankful for the feedback you provide and your relationship will be better, positively impacting the way your business develops.
Types of feedback in the workplace
“Feedback is feedback” – you might say.
“Not really” – I might answer.
(That’s a nice conversation we just had…)
We can outline different types of feedbacks which will be determined by when and why you should give them.
Remember, giving constructive and objective feedback is what you should strive for, not just giving feedback for its own sake.
The information you use must be accurate, otherwise, you might mislead your employees and damage the workflow. In this case, we would call it destructive feedback.
Some people claim that there are two types of feedback while others say it to be three types of feedback. Yet, in fact, we can outline four main types of feedback in communication.
Also, be aware that it is important to use an adequate type of feedback in regards to the specific situation. This way the feedback you provide will be accurate and meaningful.
So, what types of feedback do we have Mr. I know Everything?
Probably the hardest to give, yet the most welcomed to get.
Negative feedback has an incorrect stigma of being simply criticism (destructive feedback) when in reality it is the most valuable feedback a manager can give their employees.
That is because negative feedback does not come as easy as positive feedback does. We naturally tend to procrastinate when it comes to harsh words and “spitting the truth”. Instead, we often tend to use candy-flavored sentences which in fact do not benefit nor damage our recipient.
Negative feedback focuses on things that have already happened in the past and is given to evaluate those things from a time perspective to prevent such things from happening again.
Providing negative feedback will help you and your employees focus on doing the right things in the right way, instead of repeating futile tasks.
First and foremost, positive feedback is not sugarcoating!
Positive feedback focuses on good things that happened in the past that are worth praise and should be continued in future efforts.
It is crucial to remember that positive feedback though easier to give than a negative equivalent shouldn’t be overused. Instead, it should be only given when needed and should be balanced with negative feedback not to let your employees drift away.
To prevent positive feedback from happening over and over (damn, you’ve got good employees) simply give praise when you want to spontaneously compliment one of your staffers. Yet, when you want to give positive feedback, back it up with accurate data and give it regularly, providing your employees with a truthful source of information on how they work.
Negative feedforward is much like negative feedback but instead of focusing on the past performance, it focuses on what behavior and actions should be dropped.
It helps you and your employees do the right things, not losing time and effort doubling down on no-result work.
Oftentimes, your employees do not have access to various KPIs, statistics, and metrics that would help them get a hint of whether actions that they’re focusing on, are actually worth focusing on.
Thus, it’s your job to provide them with negative feedforward if the things they do should be dumped asap!
Give a positive feedforward whenever you see an action that you want to be cultivated.
If your employees are focusing on the right things, let them know!
They will know to double-down on that efforts and using such an asymmetric focus they’ll be able to work much more effectively spending less time on futile tasks that don’t benefit the business or – in many cases – are obsolete.
Remember, it is crucial to back up positive feedforward with accurate data.
Don’t be hotheaded, choosing a new method over another after one week you’ve started using it. Give it time, A/B test, and do everything you can to eliminate other variables that might affect the result of your evaluation.
Yet, whenever you see that your employees focus on the correct things that yield expected results (proven over time) let them know about it. They’ll be happy to hear they chose the right methods and will be more eager to continue doing these things.
Sources of feedback in the workplace
There are various sources of feedback that you can use to evaluate and improve the work of yours are your employees’.
Depending on your capabilities, you can focus on either of these sources.
The most important aspect of gathering feedback is to ask for the right things, using the right questions.
Unless you ask for the data that’ll help you, you’ll get a pile of useless words that won’t benefit your business in any way.
Now, onto the sources.
Who knows you better than your customers?
Okay, your mum and your grandma… But that’s it!
Your customers are who you actually serve and operate for, thus getting their feedback can be a gamechanger to the way you and your team works.
Also, customers know things that you don’t. Oftentimes, it is your customers who know the real value or a USP that your product or service offers.
They know why it’s beneficial to them and why they use it. Knowing these facts will help you get to know what features you should double-down on, making your work more effective.
This source of feedback is often overlooked, whilst being one of the most important.
Your employees are granted an inside-look on your company and tasks they do and might be doing or would like to do.
Asking them about their opinion on how the business operates may give you some useful solutions to apply.
Don’t believe me?
Take it from the Gary Vee himself:
“Have negative feedback for your boss?
I think any boss worth his or her salt will be pumped if you’re brave enough to respectfully point out where you disagree.
I think it can be a win-win situation.” – Gary Vee
Also, employees’ feedback can be beneficial when evaluating your – manager’s – job. They get a side-look on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Their honest feedback can turn out to be crucial when it comes to optimizing the job of a manager.
And most important – don’t be afraid to ask your employees for the opinion on your work. By doing so, you’ll strengthen your relationship and build trust which is crucial when trying to lead a team.
Depending on your position – let’s keep the managers perspective – you can gather feedback from your peers.
Their experience, as well as, expertise might be helpful when evaluating your own business.
Such feedback might come in handy for various reasons.
First, it won’t be biased. Sure, they are your friends but assuming they have nothing to do with your business, their opinion will be genuine and will provide you with a unique outlook on your efforts.
Second, they know what you need. The problem of gathering feedback is often that people focus on acquiring futile data, asking wrong questions, and getting needless answers. Your peers know exactly what feedback should be like, thus they’ll provide you with useful tips only.
Managers and team leaders
Other executive-level staffers can be a great source of feedback.
They also have a team that they need to evaluate and provide with feedback, so they know what’s the real issue and how to tackle it.
If you have an opportunity simply let them take a look at how your employees operate and what should be dumped and what you should double-down on.
The other benefit of that particular source of feedback is that another manager can compare data that you’ve gathered to the one on his own team. This is a quick and accurate way of evaluating whether you and your team are doing well in comparison to other departments in your work or industry.
Such a manager might also provide you with useful tips and tricks on how to gather and give feedback to your employees (assuming he is a badass manager who’s already done it!).
Best ways to collect feedback in the workplace
Now, you and I know that feedback is quite important, especially when it comes to the feedback in the workplace and communication.
The last piece of a puzzle that we have to figure out is how are we going to collect this feedback.
Again, there is more than one method and neither is better than the other. Simply choose what suits you and your business type and utilize it.
Surveys are a great way of gathering feedback.
You can use surveys in regards to both customers and employees.
For best practices when creating a survey make sure the questions are straightforward – no one wants to spend time figuring out what you meant. Make it brief, so recipients don’t spend too much time filling the survey and make sure it is well-customized, thus recipients will feel as it was tailored to them and their expertise.
To create simple surveys you can use such tools as Google Forms, Typeform or SurveyMonkey.
We used Google Forms when collecting data in a form of survey for our recent Social Study and it worked great.
This one is quite straightforward and so should be the execution of this method.
You can send an email asking “Do you like our product? If so, why?”.
Simple as that, no gimmicks, no selling.
To make more people reply to your email offer some incentive.
“Reply to this email and I will send you 10 ways you can boil water”. (Now, I’d definitely reply to such email…)
What’s best when it comes to emailing customers is that you’ll get answers from two different sides of the spectrum; those who love your product and those who genuinely hate it. People who are in between want even bother to open the email, whilst two of the above groups will happily hit reply. This way, you’ll get both negative and positive feedback, so you’ll get to know what to double-down on and what to drop.
If you want to get feedback from your employees the best you can do is ask for a face-to-face talk.
Don’t bother with calls as people are much less likely to give negative feedback if they don’t feel obliged to. Thus, put them into a situation when they have to act genuinely. Yet, don’t create a stressful atmosphere, it is not about that. Rather let it seem to be a friendly talk, express your concerns about the quality and importance of the work your employee does and stress to him that you’d really like to hear his opinion on your work and his/whole team’s efforts.
Your employees will – most likely – feel grateful for such an opportunity as almost everyone has some concerns and opinions that he or she would like to express.
The biggest doubt that employees often have is that their opinion doesn’t matter. Thus, make sure they understand that their feedback is crucial in the process of evaluation. If they feel like it matters, they’ll make sure to provide truthful answers.
Best practices for providing constructive feedback in the workplace
Wow, you’ve made it that far?
Now, we know what types of feedback you should focus on, where to look for feedback, and what methods are best to collect feedback.
At the last step, we’re going to focus on best practices when giving feedback. Implementing each of them into how you’re providing feedback can drastically change the way your recipients perceive it.
Usually, it is just a matter of word choice and trust, thus you should focus on optimizing both so the feedback you give is valuable and can actually make a change.
Honestly, focus on that last step as you wouldn’t like to get through the whole framework, doing all of the hard parts just to see your work dumped into thrash, would you?
Use positive language and keep it balanced
It is crucial that the feedback you give creates positive emotion.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that the feedback you give must be positive only.
On the contrary, you should balance both positive and negative feedback in a 50/50 proportion. This way your answer won’t sound like it is sugarcoating but will be perceived as trustworthy, truthful, and well-done (just like a good, Gordon Ramsay’s burger).
The most important thing that you should focus on is not to use solely negative language to avoid providing destructive feedback.
You can easily make the feedback you provide sound like a threat or reproof. It is bad for two reasons.
First, people tend to act defensively when they are accused of doing something, especially when they don’t expect such a thing to happen. This will probably result in your employees ignoring the feedback you give and you surely wouldn’t like to see such a reaction.
Second, you certainly don’t want to embarrass or hurt any of your employees – at least, that shouldn’t be a case. If you focus solely on negative feedback in regards to one of your employees they’ll react defensively and will rather pull out than use that information to improve.
Be specific and use data
It has been stressed throughout the whole article – use accurate information.
It is important for two reasons.
First is the fact that you’ll provide valuable, accurate, and objective feedback instead of playing the guessing game.
Second is that you can use that data to prove your point. People are much more likely to care about any report, feedback, summary when they know it’s been done properly.
So, taking all of the above into account, use specific data and be specific with the feedback you give. Don’t be vague, instead, stress why this feedback matters, what results you can get by applying it, and suggest how you can make use of it.
And above all else, remember to provide objective feedback.
Don’t procrastinate and do it right!
You should always provide feedback when it’s the most needed.
If you see a situation that needs to be dropped, act immediately.
If you want to give praise, do it.
Don’t wait until it ‘expires’, nor pass by it.
Also, it is important you choose the right place when giving feedback.
When it is praise, do it in front of the whole team. If you need to give some harsh words that might embarrass one of your employees it might be better to go private.
Sometimes you’ll need to provide feedback to the whole team. Then, it is best to get a private room and create an environment where your team knows that this feedback is tailored specifically to them and their work.
Choose the right time and right place and your feedback will be much more valuable if you have done it otherwise.
Give me some feedback!
You know it all.
Now, it is your part to collect feedback, give it to your team and use it to optimize your and your employees’ work.
Also, if you have a minute or two leave some feedback on this article.
If you had a blast reading it, give me positive feedback.
Did it feel like reading ingredients of a poor-quality ready-to-eat meal? Drop negative feedback (I might actually cry a bit).
Do you have an idea on how to make the article better? Leave a positive feedforward.
Yet, if you feel like there is no hope for my reading, express your concerns with a negative feedforward.
Remember, feedback in the workplace is an important issue. Thus, use the right tools, focus on the right sources, collect it using proper methods, and give it using best practices!