How to Give Feedback and Build a Feedback Culture
Updated: Aug 11
Feedback culture starts with making feedback a real value. Here's how you can do it the right way . . .
Previously on the blog, we’ve covered the importance of creating a culture of feedback in your workplace. Many companies give annual or bi-annual performance reviews, but when we need feedback to improve the way we work, once or twice a year just . . . doesn’t cut it. There are many benefits to giving and soliciting feedback more often for all involved–not just coworkers, but customers, as well. Feedback is a form of communication, and workplaces need effective communication in order to thrive.
Today, we’ll cover more specifics on feedback–the best ways to give it, and how to build a thriving feedback-focused culture in your workplace.
What are the benefits of feedback, and feedback culture?
Put simply, feedback is the fuel that keeps us moving forward. Good businesses listen and respond to feedback from their customers, happy workplaces make sure their teams are experts in giving and receiving feedback, and lifelong career advancement hinges on consistently taking in feedback and growing as a result.
Feedback . . .
Helps with communication
Builds connections between peers
Promotes continuous learning
Leads to personal growth
What is feedback culture?
A healthy feedback culture is made up of two main ingredients:
Everyone in the organization is open to (and hopefully well-trained in) giving and receiving feedback frequently
Once feedback is given, the organization actually acts on (or responds to) that feedback
Feedback culture is more than just sending out a few surveys or setting some meetings; it’s about established trust. When companies and managers show that feedback from employees is well-received, employees will know that it’s worth the time and effort. Giving feedback frequently in a structured environment is a great way to build this step-by-step.
At Ethena, we give feedback every Friday, and you can check out our template for that below!
How to give feedback the right way
It’s important to give feedback skillfully and productively so that it leads to improvement and development. Including both positive and negative feedback is important, but both need to be given enough space to be heard. (Not every area for improvement needs to be sandwiched between two compliments.)
So how do you best offer feedback? Using the right formula is key. Include the situation, behavior, and impact, and try to find the intent behind the action. Be sure to keep your phrasing clear, concise, and purposeful, and give actionable advice on how someone can improve.
Describe the situation. Be specific about when and where it occurred, with other relevant details as needed to give context.
Describe the behavior that you observed. Don’t assume you know what the other person was thinking.
Describe what you thought or felt in reaction to the behavior.
Ask about the person’s original intentions and don’t assume impact equals intent. Seek to understand.
Things to avoid when giving feedback
It’s best to avoid using the “sh*t sandwich” approach. While this is a well-known tactic in constructive criticism, it’s not ideal because it puts negative and positive feedback too close together. It is much better to make room for both positive and negative feedback without stringing them together in the same sentence. Leave out the word “but” as well, because it can have the same effect.
Do not speak in present tense either. Stick to specific examples of the observable behavior you’re describing. Avoid asking vague questions or making generalized statements. Be direct.
Ways to phrase feedback
There are many simple yet effective ways to phrase your feedback so that it’s heard and understood. Here are a few examples:
I Like: Explain the aspects that you like about the product or situation. This provides positive reinforcement for what they’re doing well. What’s working?
I Wish: This is where you share your ideas on how the work, product, or situation can be changed or improved. How can they do better?
What if: Express new suggestions, opening up possibilities for new ideas that can be explored in the future. This explains what you want to see going forward.
Creating a culture of feedback in your company and giving feedback to your employees doesn’t have to be complicated. It may take a little bit of time and practice to get it right, but it is well worth the effort. Giving feedback and being open to receiving it yourself creates a better workplace for all.