Do not evaluate a person, but a job: how to give and receive feedback correctly

The ability to give and receive feedback is a useful skill that improves and facilitates your work. Allegians company IT recruiter Daria Kuznetsova offered advice on how to provide and receive feedback, and shared links to materials for an in-depth study of this topic.

IT recruiter Darya Kuznetsova

Feedback is a powerful tool that can point out both advantages and disadvantages, and help a specialist grow and achieve their goals more quickly. It is very important to give high-quality feedback. Feedback not only points out strengths and weaknesses in the work, it also affects motivation. If the feedback is of poor quality, is not thoughtful, is in the form of a reproach, or consists of unconstructive criticism, then it can demotivate the recipient and unsettle or damage your relationship with them. Feedback is primarily offered for achievements or to highlight areas that can benefit from improvement.

Who should give feedback

— There is no unanimously accepted rule as to who should give feedback and how they should do it. It varied in the companies where I worked. Each company sets its own rules on how to give feedback. Ideally, it should be done by a supervisor or mentor with whom you work. But it often happens that your manager is not very involved in your work and conduct. If you are a junior, and your supervisor is the director of the department, you may overlap very rarely. The supervisor will likely only see your results, and not the work behind them.

It is important that feedback be given by the person who oversees you and works closely with you. Higher-level managers may give biased feedback due to their lack of familiarity with your day-to-day work. For example, in one company, hiring was partially frozen. The HR director remarked to a recruiter that he had closed very few vacancies — she did not know that recruitment was frozen, so she judged him negatively as a result of his limited number of closures. In this case, the feedback should have been given by the team leader who understood the situation.

If HR gives feedback to a developer that it doesn't work with, that's also strange.

How to give feedback correctly

— The key to effective feedback is to always remember the purpose of feedback. The main task is to help a person achieve their goals and provide benefits to their employer. It is necessary not just to point out mistakes, but to help improve the work. How?

There are several rules that I suggest following when providing feedback:

  1. Feedback should be given in as friendly and respectful a manner as possible. In Western cultures, it is customary to praise each other. They generally do not indicate shortcomings, and if they do, it is extremely rare. They say that you can't focus on the negative, that it's unprofessional. The Western belief is that to criticize and say someone did everything wrong is toxic and unprofessional. There are a lot of Englishmen in my team now. They brought a very friendly culture to the team and smile all the time. So, you feel that they are not aggressive towards you. This is very important: no aggression or hostility.
  2. Feedback should be specific, sincere, and meaningful. If you praise, then you need to justify it. If you point out any shortcomings, you need to explain what the issue is and how the person can do things better moving forward. You also need to be objective — the feedback should be supported not only by your (subjective) experience and professionalism, but also by (objective) factual, verifiable materials and references.
  3. Remember that we do not evaluate a person, but their work. There is often an implication of personal failure: you did it wrong, you have a problem here. Instead, we need to learn to say: this task was not done as it should have been, it was not completed as we agreed, I propose to resolve this in a different way. Speaking in this way is more tactful and professional.
  4. It is important to push for action, to show how to achieve goals, but not to give the employee a ready-made solution.
  5. Juniors need to receive feedback more often than more experienced specialists: at least once a month.
  6. If possible, it is better to provide feedback at an offline, in-person meeting. Live contact is more positively perceived during such conversations.
  7. There is no need to invite the entire team or someone unfamiliar with the work or situation to provide feedback. Instead, you want to create the most comfortable environment for everyone.

How to receive feedback correctly

— How do you receive feedback correctly? I have a few simple tips:

  1. You need to be open. When we receive feedback, we need to take it as help, as something positive. Often, people take it as criticism. Instead, you should consider that behind the feedback there are good intentions that will help improve the work.
  2. It is important to understand that it is not you that is being evaluated, it is your work. Not you as a person, but your tasks. We often take things personally, and in this case, we should not.
  3. You can discuss points with which you disagree. If you did not agree with something in the feedback, do not be nervous, do not swear, but explain in a reasoned way what exactly you disagree with and why. It is helpful to back up your statements with real examples if you can. If you don't quite understand the other person’s point of view, you can ask questions to clarify. The main thing is not to argue, but to try to discuss clearly and objectively.
  4. If it seems to you that the person who provides feedback is not an appropriate person to offer it or not in a position to do so, you can ask clarifying questions, ask them to explain your mistakes more clearly, ask them to explain how they see the situation and what their suggestions are for resolving it. That is, try to understand the issue from their perspective as much as possible. And you can also request additional feedback from other colleagues.
  5. If the person providing feedback is competent, and you receive clear information, then you should accept and consider the described shortcomings. Write them down, identify ways to improve, and follow the steps you have identified.

— Feedback is an excellent tool that can help you to improve your work, look at yourself with fresh eyes, hear a different opinion, find fresh solutions, and motivate you. If the feedback is provided correctly, then the reaction will be generally be a good one as well.

Useful materials on the topic of feedback

— To learn even more about how to give and receive feedback correctly, you can take the following courses:

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