For some, feedback may seem a lot like going to the dentist.  It happens once a year and we dread it or avoid it as long as possible (despite espousing its benefits to others!).  

But then, there's others who embrace feedback, seek it out and seemingly thrive on it.  

The big difference between these two types of attitudes to feedback is in mindset. Let's look at some prevalent mindsets around feedback that are holding people back from being the best they can be in the workplace (and beyond).

1. Feedback is either 'positive' or 'negative'

The way language is used influences our mindset. Why is feedback so frequently categorised as either 'positive' or 'negative' (or euphemistically as 'constructive')?  Actually, it's all just feedback, and it's not personal.  

Remember the intent of feedback - it's to help us perform at our best, develop and contribute to the team's success. If we see all feedback, as just that, then we are much more likely to embrace it.

2. My manager never gives me feedback

While this one may or may not be true for you, feedback is a two-way street. Why not make it easy for your manager by asking them for feedback?  Better still, run them through your own self-assessment and ask for their input.  

If you ask your manager for feedback frequently enough, you will in fact be coaching them to do so on a regular basis. 

By explicitly asking your manager (or others) for regular feedback, you make it easier for them to do so as they can be confident that the feedback will be welcomed and appreciated (you have set the expectation of feedback).  

While you're at it, ask your manager if they would like feedback from you.  After all, it's a two-way street.

3. Feedback is scary

To belabour the earlier analogy, yes, going to the dentist is scary if you are going for the first time in five years. What will the dentist find and say? How much treatment will I need and how much will it hurt?  

But, if you are going to the dentist twice a year and doing all the right things in between, then your appointments become routine and stress free because you hold no fear of the outcome and are not expecting any unpleasant surprises.

In framing your mindset, what should you fear most, receiving feedback that you find challenging or uncomfortable for a while, or missing out on feedback that would have been invaluable for your performance and development?  Have you ever heard somebody at work say "why didn't somebody tell me?", after finally receiving feedback that had long been withheld from them?

Try viewing feedback as an opportunity, not a threat.  It takes some work, but you will get there.

4. Providing feedback is a job for managers

Jobs today are often highly autonomous, require little direct supervision by a manager, and involve working extensively with people outside one's immediate team.  How could we expect, or want, a manager to be the single source of our feedback?  

Feedback is valuable (and more readily accepted as valid) when it comes from a diverse range of people of who can comment directly on our performance and behaviours on the job.

In the modern workplace there is an obligation on everyone to provide feedback to their peers and people with whom they work.  This is a mutual obligation and should be built into the way a team or project team works.  

Feedback begets feedback and if you provide it to peers regularly then you will find that most will reciprocate and it will be an everyday part of how people work together.

5. Feedback has to be deliberately provided by someone else

When we think about feedback in the workplace we tend to think of it as something that is purposefully communicated to us by somebody else.  But why take such a limiting view of feedback?  

In its purest form, and its non-corporate sense, feedback is a "process in which the effect or output of an action is returned to modify the next action"*.

Feedback is happening all around us every day. For example, people are (often unknowingly) providing us with feedback via non-verbal cues such as their body language and facial expressions during a conversation, presentation or discussion.

While of course there is substantial benefit in feedback being communicated to us by others (especially to help highlight our blindspots), it shouldn't be our sole channel of feedback.  If you expand the scope of what you consider to be feedback and you will get faster and more comprehensive feedback.


Our mindset has a big impact on our propensity to give or receive feedback.  Is your mindset in relation to feedback holding you or your team back?  What other feedback mindsets do see commonly exhibited?


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