Feedback Sessions - Why, When, and How

Understanding importance of feedback culture
Ashwini A. Mutalik Desai_avatar
Ashwini A. Mutalik Desai
Sep 14, 2021 | 4 min read

Introduction

At home, we have all grown up taking feedback from our parents and have improved along the way. Similarly, at a workplace, employee feedback is an astonishingly powerful tool to improve employee performance. Providing effective feedback is critical and requires everyone to understand the culture of continuous feedback in order to impact results. Feedback can refocus or realign employees, state expectations, and increase motivation.

Why do we need feedback sessions?

Feedback sessions play a paramount role in improving employee productivity and serve as one of the key elements in improving company work culture. If offered correctly, it has the potential of growing and developing the people of your organization. It also helps in improving trust and communication between employees and managers.

Feedback sessions enable us to self-analyze and help us to either accept, deny, or disagree with people’s opinion about us. Providing continous feedback makes everyone co-responsible for building each other’s journey.

When is the right time to provide feedback?

The timing of feedback is another very crucial aspect in improving performance. Giving feedback at the right time is as important as giving the right feedback. Feedback, when given too early, blocks the learning and growth process of the employees. On the other hand, feedback, when given too late, confuses people and hampers their growth.

Feedback sessions can either be done impromptu or in an explicitly planned way.

Impromptu Feedback Sessions: When you do not want to wait for a scheduled meeting to discuss work-related matters (work habits, behavior, challenges, etc.) with your team member or manager.

Explicit Feedback Sessions:  These are planned sessions to evaluate your performance over a period of time.

How to give feedback?

Feedback is often avoided in an attempt to avoid discomfort. But that is not the solution. Feedback sessions are most effective when both you and your co-worker have spent a good time thinking about each other since the last session. Let’s discuss some of the ways of giving feedback and learning how to do it right.

  • Gauge the other person's comfort level. Might take few iterations of feedback sessions between the two of you to get comfortable and be at a stage where you both are comfortable.

  • Always start with positive feedback to give a feel-good factor to the co-worker. Then slowly move to areas of improvement.

  • As far as possible, all feedbacks must be tangible, actionable, and supported by examples or facts, especially constructive feedback. This helps the other person relate and understand. For example, avoid saying, “I think you don't voluntarily sign-up for things.” This implies that the employee never volunteers for sign-ups. Instead, be more specific and support it with examples. You could say, “I think two-three times when we were doing sign-ups for retrospective action items, I never saw you raising a hand.”

  • Always give the benefit of doubt to the other person. So, in the example above, you could say, “I might have missed the fact that you would have done sign-up offline post the session on a few things, not really sure. Please correct me if my observation is incorrect.”

  • They should be friendly and come from a sense of the fact that it will help either the person get better at something for personal upliftment or better for the company or may make your relation with the other person better. It cannot be just "I don't like you" is not acceptable feedback. Maybe you could say, “You should start mingling more”, or “What do you like doing as a recreational activity that can help us get to know each other well.”

  • If you have a scheduled session and you don't have any specific feedback to share, attend the meeting and just talk with the other person. You can talk about their feelings, plans, and how you can help them. Be honest and create an open channel with the other person.

What to do post feedback session?

After the feedback session, there might be a lot of things that get added to your to-do list. Not all of that needs to be agreed upon or done at once even if you agree. Mark the feedback points based on priority and work on them accordingly.

You should try categorizing them as short-term and long-term goals. For example, to be more fluent in Postgres functionalities might be a relatively long-term goal than to start owning up testing. Do not mark a feedback item as complete just because you wanted it to appear as complete before the next session. Your feedback item not only benefits you but also your team in the long run.

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