The She Spends Guide to Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work

At She Spends HQ we believe that open, honest feedback is the key to success in your career. We put this into practice within our team by holding bi-yearly summits where we each share ideas for improvement of She Spends. We also often ask our community for feedback via surveys and email responses. We make changes based on these requests, and it seems to work. 

We believe applying the same practices to careers can be helpful, so we put together a brief guide to giving and receiving feedback at work. 

Giving Feedback
Giving feedback appropriately is all about timing and sensitivity. You want to make sure you give feedback soon after an incident so it doesn’t seem like you’ve been brooding over a problem that could likely be solved quickly. 

It’s also important to remember that feedback should be given about a behavior, not a personality. Say, for instance, someone you work with has a habit of emailing you late at night, expecting an immediate response. Your feedback should be about their late-night emailing, not about the fact that they’re awake late at night. It seems obvious, but shifting to the behavior and how it affects you is a helpful way to ask for change. 

Some people prefer using the sandwich method. You start by offering a compliment, then offering feedback, then finish with another compliment. Another way to keep sensitivity in mind is approaching feedback from a desire for the person to improve, rather than a desire to “put them in their place.” 

Receiving Feedback
One of the best things I did for my career was make it clear from day one at my job that I wanted to receive feedback and was grateful for it. I firmly believe that when someone offers feedback, they’re doing it because they want you to improve. Keeping that in mind has been super helpful when it comes to receiving feedback, especially if it’s negative. 

You can ask your employer for feedback at a yearly review, but it’s often better to check in far more often than that. Some jobs, like journalism, have built-in feedback loops. An editor tells a reporter almost daily how their story ideas and writing can be improved. However, not all jobs are like this. Consider asking for feedback when you finish small projects or even at the end of each month. 

Harvard Business Review suggests asking specific questions to garner better feedback. 

“Instead of saying ‘Do you have feedback for me?’ try something like, ‘What did you notice at our meeting yesterday when I was framing the topic? What’s one thing I did well? What’s one thing I should do more of or change?’” according to HBR. 

Sometimes receiving feedback can be scary. After all, not everyone will say you’re doing stellar work all the time. When receiving that feedback, try to breathe deeply and remember that it’s about your performance, not your personality. 

The hardest part is getting started. Once your employer gives you one thing to work on, you can check in with them after you think you’ve improved and ask for other ways to improve. Check in. Say, I did x, y or z to improve on the problem I was having. Was it effective, or is there a better way for me to go about it?

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #42

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