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Why you shouldn’t underestimate the value of feedback

Many of us recognise some value in giving and receiving feedback, but do we really understand why it’s so vital? Feedback is not only the metric used to measure learning progress and achievement, but it’s also an essential part of enabling behavioural change. Though, putting it into practice is not so simple. In this article we will explore why feedback is an important tool for growth as well as offer some suggestions on how you can start to practise giving, and receiving, feedback with your colleagues.

High quality feedback = confidence boost

Constructive feedback not only allows learners to judge their progress, but also gives them the opportunity to adjust behaviour as needed. Positive feedback provides a confidence boost which will continue supporting their motivation to learn. Furthermore, discussions with peers have been shown to improve retention. Feedback also puts the student in a position of responsibility, once they’ve been given suggestions on how to improve, it’s up to them to do so. This engagement builds on their motivation to put in the required effort, making the most out of the opportunity. 

Poor quality feedback = bad performance

A study found that of those who receive feedback, 70% then perform above average. The other 30% were found to have received poor quality feedback, leading to harmful results. When someone is not receiving effective feedback, or any at all, they often fill in the blanks with assumptions. One such assumption is that no complaints = no problems. This is often felt by managers due to employees being less willing to speak up. This assumption also hampers the growth and productivity of everyone involved. Leaders should consider what it’s like for an employee to criticise their boss before attempting to elicit their feedback. 

Why you need negative feedback

As touched on before, feedback allows the recipient to adjust behaviour when the need arises. Due to self-reflection being limited by our own perspective, receiving negative feedback is imperative for growth and behaviour change. Similarly, retention is also limited by self-observation, and is greatly increased through the social aspect of feedback. It is also good to recognise that intentionally or not, an organisation which has a culture of face-saving, will hurt the desired outcome of feedback interventions. Instead of clear and constructive conversations, a face-saving culture encourages excuses and defensiveness, severely impacting potential growth.

How to be better at receiving feedback 

In order to avoid putting someone in a position which would increase socially desirable answers, you can start by demonstrating a willingness to be open and just as importantly, a willingness to address your own flaws and biases. Offering, and following through on a verbal commitment to meet any negative feedback with only appropriate responses, is an important step. Once you’ve received feedback, take time to process it. Following up afterwards is a great way to solidify not just what behaviour should be adjusted, but also the value you place in your growth and interpersonal relationships. If you can successfully receive and discuss criticism, an atmosphere in which everyone is motivated to get the best out of each other and themselves, can start to take root.

How to give better feedback

Tip #1 – Tailor your feedback to the recipient – Everyone has their own style and when presenting a criticism, adapting to the recipient will go a long way in helping them be receptive while keeping their focus on the potential learning opportunity.

Tip #2 – Strong feedback avoids statements which show judgement or a generalisation of the recipient and their potential flaws. It is clearly directed with an example of how the specified behaviour has had an impact on others. 

Tip #3 – Not too harsh, not too kind – Harsh or frequently negative feedback often leads to the recipient becoming defensive. When this happens, they are less likely to engage and will often lose motivation, leading to decreased productivity. On the other hand, feedback that is too positive isn’t going to help direct the party to the areas that need attention.

Helpful tools

The 360-degree feedback tool is one of the more common approaches to feedback, and with good reason. This tool offers the recipient a chance to receive feedback from their managers as well as those who they work closely with. One person is assigned to gather the information before compiling it without the names of participants. Surveys are also useful tools for feedback. A survey can be sent out, offering a quick and anonymous way for people to give input.

Feedback is inherently social, and when done well, offers benefits for both the senders and recipients. In particular, it helps to create lasting behaviour change and increased motivation, which are benefits often lacking in traditional forms of learning. When feedback is combined with online exercise, classroom learning, and peer-to-peer collaboration, you have what we call Social Learning. Our language and culture courses make sure to utilise this approach, allowing participants to get the most out of the experience.

Paul Van Zanten
Paul is an American intercultural communications professional living in the Netherlands and connecting with his Dutch roots. With a passion for travel, as well as gaining new perspectives and experiences, Paul aims to further his growth, as well as that of others at Language Partners.

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