How to get honest feedback from your employees

How to get honest feedback from your employees

Getting employees to give honest feedback can be like pulling teeth. After all, no one wants to upset their boss with complaints, criticism or suggestions. But just like employees, employers need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.

While positive feedback encourages people to continue doing what they do well, it’s the constructive feedback that helps people — and businesses — grow.

Eliciting honest, constructive feedback from employees can be difficult, but not impossible. Instead of outdated employee grievance systems that don’t work, here are four ways employers can gain better insight through honest employee feedback:

1. Ditch the suggestion box.

The anonymous aspect of the stereotypical suggestion box encourages employees to give their two cents because there’s no fear of retribution. But that fear shouldn’t be present if a company has successfully developed a culture based on open communication and an ownership mentality. Employees should feel empowered and realize they have a stake in the success (or lack thereof) of the organization.

Instead, embrace transparency, just like marketing agency Quirk. Quirk created a public process — in the form of a flow chart on the office wall — that allows anyone in the company to suggest ideas, gather support for those ideas (through signatures) and potentially have them implemented. Suggestion boxes keep ideas and suggestions hidden, rather than empowering employees to voice their opinions, as Quirk’s flowchart method does.

2. Ask insightful questions.

Having an open-door policy is great, but it doesn’t always motivate employees to come forward with their comments, suggestions or concerns. The key to bringing out truly honest feedback from employees is to take the time to meet with them in an informal, one-on-one setting.

Knowing what to ask employees during individual meetings, whether they’re performance check-ins, lunches or exit interviews, is crucial to drawing out honest, actionable feedback. Asking questions such as these can help employers gain better insight:

  • If you were in my shoes, what would you change tomorrow? Why?
  • What are you hearing clients (or customers) say about our business?
  • What do you enjoy most about your job? Least?
  • How can I help you be more successful?

3. Assign feedback coaches.

It’s one thing to receive feedback from a boss, but it’s another thing entirely to give feedback to a boss. The key to getting candid opinions from employees might just be to allow employees to choose who they give that feedback to.

Take The Motley Fool, for example. The multimedia financial-services company found a way to take the intimidation factor out of the feedback process. Instead of having employees report to their boss when it comes time to give or take feedback, they encourage employees to choose from a list of designated “feedback coaches.”

These coaches are well-versed in handling employee feedback and, most important, take some of the fear out of the review process. Designating a select few to handle employee grievances could be the key to eliciting honest, constructive feedback on everything from management issues to business solutions.

4. Follow up with employees.

In the end, how employers elicit employee feedback is irrelevant if they don’t follow up with employees. When it comes to giving employers constructive feedback, the greatest motivator is to show employees their feedback is being considered or, better yet, applied. Employers can bet that once an employee has taken the time to give their opinion on a matter, they’ll be watching to see if their opinion is truly valued.

Even if an idea or suggestion remains just that, follow up with employees and let them know that their feedback is always appreciated and encouraged.

How do you get candid opinions from your employees? Share your tips in the comments section below.

How to get honest feedback from your employees

When you’re in management, getting honest feedback from employees can be tough. It can even seem impossible.

No one wants to offend the boss, so suggestions and complaints may be whispered and talked about among the employees. But, they rarely see the light of day in the manager’s office.

The problem is, those things need to be discussed. Managers need to hear about good things and about the things that need improvement.

Your business needs constructive feedback. It’s what will help your business grow, and finding ways to encourage honest, open feedback within your organization is essential.

Below, you’ll find some best practices for getting truly honest feedback from your employees – without them heading out the door afterwards.

Create a Culture of Open Communication

Many companies claim to have an open door policy, but that doesn’t guarantee that employees will feel comfortable enough to walk through that door. All too often, the open door claim is stated, but is not communicated elsewhere in the organization – there is not a culture of open communication.

If you want employees to feel comfortable providing honest feedback, it has to extend beyond the management office. Adding an open discussion item to the agenda for your staff meetings is a great place to start.

Develop a Collaborative Process

Collaboration is a great way to encourage transparency and you can get a jump on that by taking a page from the playbook of a marketing agency called Mirum (formerly Quirk).

They created a flow chart that allows employees the opportunity to make suggestions and share ideas, get other employees to sign on to the idea to show support, and possibly even see them implemented within the organization. This is the ultimate in transparency since everyone sees the ideas, plus it can spark creative, productive discussions.

This is a great empowerment tool because it encourages employees to take ownership of their position and the company. They feel engaged and valued, knowing that their ideas matter. Everything is displayed on a bulletin board.

Everyone can see the ideas, what’s working, what ideas have been implemented, and which ones didn’t make it (and why).

Take Time to Meet Face to Face

One of the common problems in companies is that the employees feel like the managers are out of touch with what’s going on in the trenches. Sun Tzu wrote about this in Art of War regarding the military, but those principles have been applied to business for years.

When the leaders are separated from the employees, the employees feel distant and disconnected. This leaves them feeling like they are not heard and not understood by those above them.

Taking the time to have face to face meetings with your employees will draw them back in. It’s important that your employees see you not only in the trenches with them, but also interacting with them. The more approachable and personable you are, the more likely your employees will perceive you as someone they can trust and open up to.

Ask the Right Questions (in the right way)

Having an open door policy, being present, and having face to face interactions make for a great start when you’re trying to get your employees to open up, but those things don’t often motivate them to actually speak up with suggestions, comments, or concerns.

If you really want honest feedback, you need to take time with them. Meet with them one-on-one and ask the right, insightful questions, such as:

  • If you were in my position, what things would you change right now? Why?
  • What do you like most about your job? Why?
  • What do you like the least about your job? Why?
  • What could be changed to correct those things you don’t enjoy about your job?
  • What do you hear our customers saying about our company?
  • What do you think we can do to improve customer/employee perception of our company?
  • What can I do to help you be more successful?

Use Feedback Coaches

Employees may be more willing to open up to a feedback coach than they would a manager. Feedback coaches are specifically trained to work with employees, handle grievances, and get honest feedback. They sit down with the employees, usually one-on-one, gather the feedback, and compile it to present to management. This takes a lot of the fear and anxiety out of the entire process.

These coaches can be employees in your section or in another section. They can either be assigned to certain staff members, or the employees can select them from a list. They will listen and discuss the feedback with the employee in order to get the clearest picture of the situation, then act as a middle man of sorts by reporting to the manager with the information.

Whether they elicit honest feedback on management issues, operations, staff issues, or business solutions, they will provide a sharing space where the employee feels safe and free to contribute. If you just can’t get your employees to open up, this may be a good way to go.

Utilize the 360 Degree Feedback

One of the best, most comprehensive ways to get honest feedback from employees is by using a 360 degree feedback program. It’s secure and anonymous, so employees don’t have to worry about being identified. They can be honest without fearing any backlash (real or perceived) for the information that they share.

These 360 assessments are focused and guided to garner the most helpful, constructive feedback, while being completely confidential. This gives employees peace of mind and they will be much more likely to respond truthfully.

The 360 feedback is also a great developmental tool for leaders as well as any member on your staff. It works at all levels. The survey is administered anonymously, and the information is compiled by a third party into a comprehensive report that is forwarded to management.

There are coaches who will go over the results with you to explain the information, so you never have to guess or wonder if you understood some feedback correctly. It is a powerful management tool and a way for you to empower your employees.

Click below to view a 360 assessment sample for free:

How to get honest feedback from your employees

For more detailed information, contact us at Edge Training Systems, Inc. at (800) 305-2025 or email us here.

Posted on February 15, 2018 by Paul O’Keefe

Improve Employee Engagement and Production with Quality Feedback

How to get honest feedback from your employees

It’s 2017. Workplaces are more horizontal than they’ve ever been, and that’s why we are shocked and surprised by Mad Men and other period shows. We’re far beyond the “yes man” days. Right?

There are many things that might be holding employees back from giving critical feedback needed to improve production. And a big stumbling block to that might just be you and your management style. So it’s time to check your ego at the door and prepare for some honest feedback to go from good to great.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes feedback is less than pleasant. But there are some positive ways to make giving and receiving feedback positive in an organization. Here are 6 tips to get honest feedback from your team.

1. Ask: This seems too obvious. But have you asked? And this doesn’t mean in the vague, “How am I doing?” way. Be specific.

  • How can we make our team meetings more effective?
  • How do you best receive, and give, feedback? (Some might want a quick face-to-face check-in. Others might want e-mails. Nevertheless, always follow up a face-to-face with an e-mail to keep a written record.)
  • What can I do to make your job easier?
  • What could I have done better to support you in your last project?
  • What can I do next time to help you make your project more successful?

2. Listen: Now this is where many of us fail … every single day. Really listen. Don’t listen to reply. Just … listen. And don’t just listen to words, but pay close attention to non-verbal feedback. Is there tension in the room when you assign a new project? Be aware and recognize what’s being said and what’s not being said. This is a hard thing to do.

3. Say thank you: Feedback is an opportunity to learn and improve, not only as a manager, but an entire team’s production. Being gracious and truly grateful for the opportunity to grow is something we can all work on.

4. Give employees the benefit of the doubt: Instead of getting defensive, take a step back and try to understand where your employee is coming from. This is “assuming positive intent.” In a blog post, How You Can Get More Feedback From Your Team, here are some easy-to-follow steps to take after receiving feedback:

  • Thank your employee
  • Ask the employee to share a situation in which the feedback applies
  • Ask any questions to follow up this feedback
  • Ask how you can improve your role in the future.

5. Take action: It certainly doesn’t make any sense to get feedback and do nothing about it. Basically, by not changing, you’re showing your employees that their feedback doesn’t matter. So take action. This validates your employees and shows the team you’re listening and willing to improve.

6. Be a leader: Actions speak louder than words. Show your team how to give feedback – both positive and negative – by being a positive role model. Be approachable and teach the team how to listen by becoming a listener. Keep the team on task – discussing projects, not personality. Take responsibility for blunders. Discuss project failures with the team and how the next one can improve. By airing dirty laundry, it makes it easier to work together without fear. By doing this, you’re building habits, positive ones.

Being on the receiving end of criticism isn’t fun. But it’s always an opportunity to grow and improve. Lead by example and show your team that feedback isn’t something to be tucked away in the darkest corners of their minds, but something we can all share to improve … together.

How to get honest feedback from your employees

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, or having self-awareness, is one of the most critical leadership competencies and considered by many to be the single most important predictor of leadership success.

When it comes to assessing how we come across to others, most of us have blind spots. We tend to assess ourselves based on our good intentions, while others assess us on what they actually see and hear.

In order to close the gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us, we need feedback. According to management guru Ken Blanchard, “feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Unfortunately, for managers, especially senior managers, candid feedback is a rare commodity, but it doesn’t have to be. If you really want feedback, there are ways to get it.

Just make sure that when you do get feedback, you listen, keep your mouth shut, and say, “Thank you.”

1. Take a 360 Assessment

360 assessments are surveys, often administered by a third party for a fee. These assessments ask your boss, peers, and employees for ratings and comments regarding your behaviors and or skills. Although some reports are self-explanatory, it’s usually better to have a certified coach help you sort through the results.

2. Try the “Ten to Ten” Technique

First, identify something you want to improve—say leading a meeting, delegating, listening, or conducting a one-on-one. Then, at the end of an interaction with someone, (it only takes a few minutes), ask the question: “On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate my listening skills?” If it’s anything less than ten, ask the follow-up question, “What would I need to do for you to rate me a ten?”

It works well because it gives you very specific ideas for improvement, in terms of what’s important to the other person. It opens up dialogue in a non-threatening way, builds trust, and creates a win-win developmental partnership.

3. Ask a Recruiter

Good recruiters make their living sizing candidates up quickly. They can take a look at your resume, and after a 15-minute phone screen, have a pretty good idea about your strengths and weaknesses. You have to ask them for a candid, constructive, and brutally honest assessment. Again, just listen, keep your mouth shut, and say, “Thank you.”

4. Try FeedForward

An alternative to the ten to ten technique. Instead of asking for examples of past behavior, you are asking for advice on how to be more effective in the future. People will be much more comfortable with this, but you get the same constructive information.

5. Watch Yourself on Video

A good way to get feedback on your presentation skills. This used to be a terrifying way to learn about yourself, although in the age of YouTube, perhaps we’re getting used to seeing ourselves on camera. It’s even better if you have a coach or trainer watch with you to point things out and offer tips for improvement. If you have a thick skin, invite a bunch of friends over and break out the popcorn and beer.

6. Take a Leadership Course

Many leadership courses include some kind of assessment feedback. Many include a combination of 360 assessment, personality, and feedback from class participants and the instructor.

7. Take a Validated, Reliable Personality Assessment

Try the Hogan, MBTI, DISC, or others and again, have someone help you interpret the results.

8. Job Interviews

Again, like with getting feedback from a recruiter, you really have to ask in a nice way, and make sure you: listen, keep your mouth shut, and say, “Thank you. Even if you’re not looking for a job, it’s a good idea to go on a practice interview every so often.

9. Ask Your Boss This Question

“Not that I’m going anywhere, but if you had to replace me, what would you look for in the ideal candidate?” This one’s a little risky, because you don’t want to give your boss any ideas, but if you have a lot of confidence, you could pull it off.

10. Ask Your Teenage Kids

We saved this one for last, because it’s the most brutal kind of feedback of all! It’s only for the very brave-hearted and thick-skinned.

You might look around at your team and your organization and think that everything is perfect. Spoiler alert: It’s probably not.

Or, you might look at them and see lots of areas for improvement, but feel like it’s a lost cause. Second spoiler alert: It’s probably not.

Even the seemingly most well-oiled organizations have room for improvement. The trick is using the right tools. Your team’s feedback is one of the greatest.

This past March, I hosted several panels for the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) virtual conference. Several of the panelists discussed not only the importance of receiving feedback, but also the best approach for getting it.

Here are three of the methods that stuck out to me as some of the most constructive tools for getting honest feedback from your team.

1. Conducting Rounds

Healthcare providers have been conducting daily patient rounds since the late 1880s. Rounds are used to ensure that patients and all members of their care team are on the same page, and to educate young providers. Ultimately, rounds have been shown to improve patient outcomes, and satisfaction for patients, providers, and employees alike.

So, instead of reinventing the wheel, why not take advantage of a model that’s been working for over a century?

Start conducting regular well-being rounds to check in with your employees and simply see how they’re doing. Make it clear that it’s an agendaless meeting. It’s a safe place to vent, ask questions, get reassurance, etc. Also, since employees might be a bit anxious knowing that senior leadership is in on the rounds, reassure them that this isn’t a “gotcha” meeting.

Well-being rounds help you learn by observation. Just like with medical rounds, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page about which tactics that you’ve put in place are or are not working.

Just be sure that you’re not getting in their way. They are incredibly busy trying to save lives. Don’t make well-being rounds just another burdensome task. Schedule a 15-minute Zoom call for those working remotely, or set aside a day where they can initiate a meeting with you.

2. Distributing Surveys

Another tried-and-true method for getting feedback is pulse-surveys.

Remember: Your employees are busy. They don’t want to spend more than a few minutes doing surveys.

Make surveys short — 3 to 5 questions max — via email or text. Send them at a regular cadence, like at 3 p.m. on Fridays, for example. That way employees know it’s coming. And if they miss it, they know it’s coming again.

Setting up a good system for surveys is a great initiative for an internal communications team to take on. It’s all about determining who should be involved in developing the questions, how frequently surveys should be sent, and what senior leadership really wants to take a pulse on.

3. Eliminating Implicit Bias

Workplace discrimination isn’t always visible. In many cases, if not most, it’s also not intentional. This is implicit bias — subconsciously stereotyping or having an attitude toward a group of people. Implicit bias has led to discrimination toward certain ethnic groups, genders, sexualities, abilities, and more in the workplace.

  • More than 60% of employees feel that bias is present in their workplace.
  • 84% of these employees say that bias has negatively affected their well-being, happiness, and confidence.
  • 83% of employees who have witnessed workplace bias say that the bias is subtle or indirect.

Nipping implicit bias in the bud is especially important in a healthcare organization. The 2019 “Bias Barrier” survey from Deloitte found that 70% of employees who have experienced or witnessed workplace bias feel that they are less engaged in their work. And what happens when healthcare providers are disengaged? Higher rates of hospital-acquired infections, longer patient stays, more readmissions, and lower patient safety scores.

This training can lead to hard conversations, but it’s important to cultivate transparency. Don’t get defensive — really listen to them, take in what they’re saying, and make a commitment to change.

There are many organizations that can help. For example, the Perception Institute provides solutions from simple needs assessments to workshops on recognizing and correcting implicit bias.

Making an open and sincere effort to eliminate implicit bias — as well as conducting rounds or distributing surveys — have an added bonus. It shows your employees that you value what they have to say and that their well-being is a company priority.

Share this page

Keren Lerner gives us tips for how to get honest feedback.

When it comes to running a business, there is a definite line to be drawn between those who have people working for them, and those who don’t. Once you ‘have staff’ much of your time and brain space is spent on them. Onboarding them, training them, briefing them on projects, motivating them, reviewing them and worrying about them.

So, when people are underperforming you feel a certain pain and anxiety that takes over your head space.

Now the solution to any conflict is usually to improve communication. Often, if someone is ‘acting out’ or not performing their duties at work it’s not because they are lazy or don’t care but rather that they feel upset, unappreciated, demotivated, or something is happening outside of work.

It’s for this reason that finding out what’s really going on in their heads is important. Once someone feels heard they feel better and will give more back. They will cheer up and work more effectively. Having run a small team for 11 years now, I am much better at having the courage to speak up and bring things out in the open.

Start early

With a new member of staff, book a meeting in the first week, to see how they’re doing. Even if there isn’t much to report necessarily, it breaks the ice and shows you are the listening type. You can ask questions like ‘What stands out amongst the things you’ve learned’ and ‘What’s been different from what you expected now that you’ve been here a week?’.

By establishing a good honest relationship from the beginning you will make your employees feel as though they can be open and honest with you.

Having this time out of work, maybe over a coffee or lunch, gives you a chance to get to know each other and makes it more comfortable in future. By establishing a good honest relationship from the beginning you will make your employees feel as though they can be open and honest with you.

Of course you may have had someone working with you for ages and haven’t done this yet. But it’s never too late to start.

Agendas are useful

During weekly catch-up calls it’s good to follow a specific agenda. These meetings don’t need to take more than five minutes and should be kept short and pleasant. A good agenda for such catch-ups is:

  • Good news – persona
  • Good news – business
  • What are you working on
  • Anything you need help and support on
  • One word close

The fine line between boss and friend

There needs to be a balance of hierarchy but as an employer you also need to feel like a friend or someone that’s willing to listen and take on what your employees have to say.

There needs to be a level of understanding of each other and how each person ticks in order for employees to feel like they can give truthful feedback and that the employer doesn’t feel attacked and therefore is able to listen.

Click here to take the TJ survey and get three months free digital subscription to TJ plus the chance to win an Amazon Echo

Of course, the level of friendship depends on many factors – not least the compatibility between the employer and employee – but there is anything wrong with adopting certain characteristics of friends – listening, supporting, and doing fun things.

Listen and wait before reacting

As the leader/employer, it’s up to you to be the ‘bigger person’ – and that means keeping your cool. During times of emotion and stress, it is important to set aside time to meet, to hear people out, consider their point of view, and take time before reacting so you approach any issues that arise with calm maturity and offer support.

Doing this means your team will feel more comfortable in the future, because the outcome and your reaction are positive .

Monthly one-to-one meetings

A one-on-one or ‘O3’ is a weekly or monthly meeting between you and each of your employees to just generally catch-up, hear how they are doing, and even ask how their cats or kids are. This gives you a chance to see problems before they arise and build on that supportive relationship.

This piece concludes next week.

About the author

Keren Lerner is the CEO and founder of Top Left Design, a London based design and marketing agency.

How to get honest feedback from your employees

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

How to get honest feedback from your employees

Betsy Allen, a consultant-friend of ours, once said, “Leadership is cause; all else is effect.” And, while we may not like to admit it, she’s more than a little right.

Many organizational issues that at first seem to be caused by employees actually stem from a reaction to management decisions, practices and policies. Management determines, and employees respond. Sometimes, they respond in the manner that management would like, sometimes not. Therefore, motivating a favorable response is critical for organizational effectiveness.

This is the fourth in our series on improving employee performance. We’ve already discussed how to define and deliver clear objectives, remove roadblocks and train employees. The fourth way to increase performance is through motivation.

Employees need both rewards and consequences to perform well. An environment that is skewed heavily as overly positive or negative will result in dysfunction. Motivational rewards come in many different forms, including those that are tangible (e.g., merchandise, time off and money) and intangible (e.g., feeling included, development opportunities and additional responsibilities). Both can be highly effective. However, the least expensive, and often the most appreciated form of motivation, is performance feedback.

Most employees want to be recognized, to be contributing members of a winning team, we’ve found. And to achieve such recognition, they need feedback. But, in our experience, many managers find giving frequent, meaningful feedback difficult.

To be most effective, feedback should be tailored to the individual, well thought out and delivered close to the event. Anything else will limit the motivational effect.

Positive feedback

To give positive feedback, the easiest way to start is to see employees doing something right and comment on it. We coach the managers we work with to make it a practice to praise employees on at least one specific item each week. Thanking them for a job well done will often result in the employees repeating the behavior.

Our next piece of advice: When praising employees, make sure that you are: 1) specific about what you liked; and 2) you link their behavior back to the goals of the organization. For example:

Mary, I wanted to thank you for helping Mr. Smith with his order this morning. You were polite and answered his questions quickly and thoroughly. When we serve our clients well, they come back and bring their friends. Happy customers equal more sales for the company. Again, thank you. Keep up the good work.

While the specific praise you give may take more words, it will mean more to an employee than the usual “Good job!” or “Thanks for all you do.” Generic praise that is not specific and not linked to the organization leaves employees wondering what they did right and unable to repeat the behavior.

Negative feedback

Negative feedback is more difficult for most managers. But, here are a few tips: First, don’t layer negative feedback in between positive comments:

Mary, you are a valuable employee and we really appreciate what you do for our team. But, you need to come to meetings on time more often. You know we really appreciate your contributions and value your input. You are an important part of the team.

While some people believe that this “Oreo” approach softens the blow, we believe it sends mixed messages and gives little guidance.

Instead, the first time you have an issue with an employee’s performance, let him or her know. Your comments do not have to be harsh. Rather, they should be assertive and factual. Begin with a neutral comment to reduce defensiveness. Then, while using a pleasant but firm tone of voice, explain how the employee’s behavior affects you, your team or the company and why it is a problem. Next, ask for the behavior/performance you expect. Finish your feedback with a question asking the employee to fulfill with your request:

Mary, I understand how busy we are. However, when employees are late for meetings, it causes particular problems. We have to stop the meeting to fill in the late comer on our discussions. This takes up valuable time and interrupts the flow of the meeting. Mary, I would appreciate your being on time to future team meetings. Can you do this for me?

The question obliges the employee to either answer in the affirmative or give you a reason for being unable to comply. If you get a negative response, you can discuss the issue further and hopefully come to an understanding. Obviously, if the employee continues to perform poorly there are techniques for escalating your feedback.

Giving employees negative feedback is uncomfortable for most managers. But, ignoring performance issues is unfair to both the employee and the organization. Remember, employees want to be recognized, contributing members of a winning team.

To get them there, be willing to give both positive and negative feedback, both rewards and consequences. One without the other will fail to get you the performance you desire.

How to get honest feedback from your employees

As a manager, you know that your actions and behaviors – good and bad – impact your team’s performance. To help your team succeed, you need to understand how your actions affect its members – and that requires consistent and honest feedback.

But you won’t get the insight you need by simply asking for it: In fact, it’s all too easy to derail the discussion before your team members even say a word. Here are a few tips to help encourage honest feedback – and how to respond.

How to ask for feedback

The truth is that how you ask for feedback may be what’s stopping you from hearing what you need to hear. Here are some points that can help.

1. Don’t ask for honesty

Asking team members to “be honest” may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s ineffectual: Remember old adage “Never trust anyone who says, ‘trust me.’” If you have developed trust with your team, they will give you honesty. If you have not…well, keep reading.

2. Ask them what they need

You may be tempted to ask, “How am I doing?” After all, that’s what you want to know. But to your team, this approach may come across as needy, self-serving, or at worst, disingenuous.

Better to ask, “What do you need?” This bases the discussion on their needs, not yours. And when they tell you what they need, guess what? They are telling you how you are doing.

3. Don’t talk about yourself

I have made the mistake of including “How can I do better as your manager?” as a standing agenda point in performance reviews. I thought I was being open, vulnerable, and even-handed.

I wasn’t. Instead, I was making their review about me (see above), robbing them of time that is supposed to be dedicated to their career. Asking someone for feedback when they are naturally vulnerable pretty much guarantees they will be guarded in their response. While you should welcome feedback in any context, don’t dwell on it, and don’t make it the only time you ask.

How to respond to feedback

Giving one’s manager feedback feels inherently risky. How you respond in that moment will set the tone for future interactions – and remember, it’s much easier to destroy trust than build it back up.

4. Don’t explain, argue, or rationalize

When a team member offers feedback you did not expect or that you disagree with, don’t try to get them to see your side – this tells them their feedback is not welcome or valuable. Simply accept the feedback for what it is: their point of view.

5. Believe them

Whatever it is they are telling you is true to them – so in the context of your relationship with them as their manager, it is true in every way that matters.

6. Get details

If you don’t understand what you are hearing or don’t remember a specific incident, ask for more information. If a team member says, “You can sometimes be dismissive,” don’t prove them right! Accept the feedback and ask them to clarify or give an example. Don’t demand proof or challenge them – instead, seek to understand.

7. Thank them

Honest feedback is a gift, and giving it requires courage. Acknowledge this by thanking your team members.

How to act on feedback

Actions speak louder than words. How you act on feedback will ultimately make the biggest difference in how your team feels about giving you feedback in the future.

8. If one person said it, assume that others agree

If one team member feels compelled to tell you something, chances are others feel the same way. Think about who else might share that point of view and why – and consider how it might impact the whole team.

9. Turn feedback into change

The most important thing you can do to honor your teams’ feedback is to take it to heart and make positive changes based on it. You’ll win trust with your team members and likely others in your sphere as well.


  • Remote burnout: How to recognize when people disengage
  • Emotional Intelligence: 11 ways to nurture your EQ now
  • 10 tips for more productive remote meetings

10. Give it time

Developing a healthy feedback culture takes time. But if you work consistently to build trust, you’ll enjoy a more productive, open culture in which people feel respected. You’ll also benefit from a more trusting and positive work environment.

[ Are you leading through change? Get the free eBook, Organize for Innovation. ]