Giving and receiving feedback that is constructive is not always easy, but when it is supportive and useful it helps everyone work happier together. Whatever the stage of our career, feedback lets us know we’re valued and helps us grow.
Receiving direct and clear information about how we’re doing at our job is positively related to wellbeing at work. Research across a range of organizations has shown that that good quality feedback is related to wellbeing, motivation, job satisfaction and a feeling of progress. One study even found it was the most important predictor of job satisfaction. And although organizations need to be careful that too much feedback doesn’t overwhelm their employees, research suggests we may have a psychological need for feedback, linked to feeling empowered.
Constructive feedback is an area of organizational culture which rarely supports the psychological needs of employees. Daniel Pink, an author on business and the world of work, said “the workplace is one of the most feedback-deprived places in modern life”. But employee expectations are changing. We can say with confidence that people do leave companies when they feel underappreciated. As one HR lead told us, “If they are not getting feedback, they enjoy it [the work] and move on”.
To be useful, feedback needs to be frequent and responsive. When bringing up children, we offer daily support as well as reflecting on their achievements at key milestones, like birthdays. Feedback in the workplace would more reliably enhance wellbeing if it followed a similar rhythm and pattern. It’s useful to distinguish between two forms of feedback: formal and informal. A lot of organizations are experimenting with new forms of formal feedback by making performance review processes more regular and peer-led. Informal feedback – e.g., in conversation with colleagues – is just as important for helping us see which skills to strengthen and grow. The trick is to be able to give and receive feedback well, which is a life skill that can be learned.
“Learning how to give and receive feedback is a much under-appreciated skill. Oftentimes it can come in the form of what I call “prickly gifts” and unwrapping the spikes to find the juicy fruit in the middle is not always easy. All too often people only give feedback when things are going wrong and they forget to “catch people doing things right”. Addressing this negativity bias is critical (no pun intended).” Nic Marks, Friday