Creating a Culture of Feedback

In order to build a successful and positive work environment that is continually improving, you and your employees need to feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback. In fact, feedback is one of the most important mechanisms for ensuring an engaged workplace. However, many people have no idea how to effectively give OR accept performance feedback. If feedback is handled poorly, people’s feelings will be hurt, grudges will be held, employees will be disgruntled and performance will suffer. So, here are a few tips on how to create a culture of feedback at the office.

1.  Safety first

Employees must feel “safe,” for feedback to be effective.  Organizational transparency is one of the first keys to building trust and helping employees feel safe. Leaders can also make employees feel safe by building the relationship, and getting to know the employee both professionally and personally.  Once a relationship is established, trust can be built, enabling an environment more conducive to feedback.

2. Set the example yourself

​If you truly want to create an effective environment of feedback, you should set the golden example for the office. Model the behavior by explicitly asking employees for their feedback first, normalizing the practice. But, managers shouldn’t simply ask, “What feedback do you have for me?” That broad overwhelming question will likely elicit a “no” response. Instead, try, “If there was one thing I could do to get out of my own way, what would be?” Or, “What one thing should I stop doing?” Or, “what one thing should I start doing?”  If you are closed to off to receiving feedback, trying to implement a feedback culture could come off as hypocritical and do more harm than good.

3. Encourage encouragement

Even though giving feedback has a connotation of being critical, it is equally (if not more) important to be able to give positive feedback. When there is an opportunity to compliment an employee or team, take it. If you are giving positive feedback publicly, make sure to spread the wealth so it doesn’t look like you’re playing favorites. It’s so easy and simple to compliment people on a job well done, yet is too often overlooked. Be the leader who remembers to show gratitude for the little things.

4. Let go of the negativity

Don’t view negative feedback as a bad thing.  In fact, employees who receive negative feedback are more engaged than employees who don’t receive any feedback! When you need to give constructive feedback to an employee, make sure to avoid public confrontation. Showing public criticism of an employee is another surefire way to alienate your staff and not reach the maximum cohesiveness possible.

5.  Have several feedback channels

Finally, make sure that your feedback environment doesn’t focus solely on one channel.  Different employees have different preferences and you want to have multiple channels to support the various styles of engagement. In addition to one-on-one feedback sessions, you may wish to have written sources that solicit anonymous feedback, like pulse surveys.  Also, consider group feedback opportunities, such as focus groups, which may bring out issues that may not arise in induvial feedback sessions.

No culture will change without practice. Create plenty of opportunities for employees to both give and receive both positive and constructive feedback and they will become used to the process. In time, feedback will feel normal, boost morale, company performance and be a part of your culture.

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