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Feedback can be a sticky subject. It’s sometimes hard to give, uncomfortable to receive, but can ultimately have huge implications around success and growth at work.
Data shows that even though women request the same amount of feedback as men, women are given less feedback and less specific feedback than their male colleagues. This can impact a variety of factors around their success at work, including their ability to get promotions and move up in the ranks.
To learn about their experience of feedback in the workplace, Booz Allen’s Chief Diversity Officer Marlene Aquino led a conversation with Facebook’s Global Civil Partnerships Manager Crystal Patterson and Hatch Apps Founder and Vinetta Project DC Board Chair Amelia Friedman. Together, they discussed not only how to ask for and receive feedback needed to grow your career, but also how to effectively give feedback to your team. Here are their top tips:
If openly giving feedback isn’t a part of your company culture, convey to your colleagues that you welcome their thoughts. Crystal once had a colleague who would give her honest and concise feedback after presentations. While others saw this as too intense, Crystal liked being able to get trustworthy, actionable advice for how to continuously improve. If you’d like to build a relationship like this at work, make sure it’s with someone who is both credible to give the feedback you want to receive and who also has your best interests at heart.
While getting feedback can be helpful, it might not always resonate. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. Lean on trusted people in your network, such as a mentor, who can vet questionable feedback about your work. Ultimately, trust your gut and have a “north star” of what you should and shouldn’t internalize, Marlene suggested.
On the hunt for new opportunities? Ask during job interviews how the organization’s feedback structure works. How often is feedback delivered? Is it formal or informal? Is it unilateral or 360 degrees? Depending on the feedback culture, you might determine whether a job is a good match. In Crystal’s case at Facebook, she and her colleagues get to select who gives them feedback. Are you starting your own business like Amelia did? Find mentors who are willing to weigh in on your progress along the way so that you continue to grow.
While some organizations have quarterly or even annual formal reviews, providing feedback to a colleague while it’s still fresh in your mind can make it more effective and enduring. Whether colleagues did a great job on a new presentation or continue to miss deadlines, have a conversation soon. When you save feedback for later, it may not seem as relevant by the time it comes to share.
Feedback isn’t effective if someone isn’t ready to receive it. If a colleague is having a tough day or is incredibly busy, for instance, giving them unsolicited feedback may be a stressor that goes left unapplied. Try asking things like: “Are you open to receiving feedback about your presentation?” They might say “yes,” but suggest a different time when they’ll be fully present. Try to accommodate; it could go a long way.
Has someone seemed off their game lately? Don’t blame it on performance before you get the big picture, Amelia suggested. Start by pointing out to the colleague that something they did was amiss with a question like: “Things seemed off yesterday. Is everything ok?” By leading with empathy, you may find it easier for colleagues to open up about something that’s affecting their work but isn’t work related, such as an incident with their family. However, if everything is ok and they don’t think they’re missing the mark at work, it might be an opportunity for you both to realign around goals and priorities.
Research shows that when you focus on a person’s strengths and give positive feedback, it’s more effective and leads to improvement for both the individual and the team. It can also boost workplace happiness and morale, which is a win for all.