Take the Fear out of Feedback

December 12, 2018 in
By Maggie Moore, Wendy Joachim

As we shared in last week’s blog “Reflection, Feedback, and Rhabit” the end of a year and the beginning of the New Year is the perfect time to take stock of your goals, accomplishments, challenges, and areas for improvement. To continue this month’s focus on feedback, we want to share some tips about how to receive feedback, based on how we coach our workforce and what we put into practice here at FMP.

While many organizations focus on training managers and staff to give effective feedback, few teach employees how to receive feedback. And let’s face it, even though deep down most of us crave feedback[i], many find it difficult to digest, especially when the message is constructive or negative in nature.[ii] In fact, neuroscience tells us that it’s normal to feel your heart start to race, palms sweat, or anxiety increase in anticipation of and/or in response to feedback.[iii] The good news is that learning how to receive feedback can quell your fears and result in positive outcomes, most notably professional and personal growth.

At FMP, we value individual and career development, both of which require sustained focus on giving and receiving feedback effectively. Within our own organization, we strive for a culture of regular and open feedback that fosters both individual and collective growth. So, whether you receive feedback as part of an annual or mid-year performance review, or on an ongoing basis, take a deep breath and relax: FMP’s five tips will help you navigate these discussions with ease.[iv]


  1. Shift your Perspective: The goal of feedback is to help build your skills and become a more effective employee, teammate and/or leader. According to performance management experts Alexander Schwall and J. Kevin Kelly, Rhabit Co-Founders, “without feedback [you] are flying blindand we all have blind spots. If you shift yourthinking to view feedback as a valuable lens into your own blind spots, it will be easier to receive within the context of professional development.


  1. Listen Actively: Clearly understanding the feedback is an obvious first step, but it can be difficult to focus on the message when you are in a stressed state. To ensure that you walk away with a clear picture, listen and don’t interrupt your manager and/or peers while they are delivering the feedback. Paraphrase what you hear once they are finished and ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what they are saying. If they don’t provide specific examples, ask for more detail. Equally as important is to make sure you are clear on what you can do or should not do going forward. If you have questions after the discussion, don’t hesitate to follow-up to be sure that you have correctly heard, interpreted, and are able to apply the feedback effectively.


  1. Don’t be a Linebacker: Try to avoid responding in a defensive tone or spend time providing excuses. Instead, stop, listen, take a breath, and focus on understanding the whole message. If the feedback is constructive, be respectful in your response, even if you have questions or need more information. It’s very difficult to give effective feedback and your manager probably sweated it out preparing for the conversation.


  1. Take Action: Let the feedback sink in and reflect on the overall message. Think about what the feedback tells you about what you can do differently or where to focus your skill building efforts moving forward. Also, don’t forget to focus on how you can keep momentum going on the positive feedback. It’s also okay to give yourself time and space to think about how you will use the feedback and come back to your manager for a follow-up conversation. It’s this discussion, reflection, and follow-up that leads to higher performance and often accelerated career progression.


  1. Own It: Revisit your progress throughout the year. Remember, you own your professional development and receiving and responding to feedback is critical to improving your performance over time. Check back in on your performance periodically throughout the year, and don’t hesitate to ask your manager how you are doing as your progress.


Join the conversation. Do you have feedback on your experience receiving feedback? Looking for more information on feedback or performance management? Reach out to us to learn more!

 About the Authors:

 Maggie is part of FMP’s internal HR team and an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist and employee development nerd. When she isn’t tackling employee benefits and HRIS challenges, or implementing FMP-wide learning and development initiatives, she loves to spend time with her family of four, cook, and day dream about her next international travel adventure.


Wendy is the other half of FMP’s HR team, with her heaviest focus on bringing great new employees in the door. Outside of FMP Wendy can be found on the sidelines or in the bleachers cheering for her kids in their various activities, taking a run by the river, or trying out a new DC or Old Town restaurant.




[i]LinkedIn Talent Blog: https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/trends-and-research/2016/5-Employee-Feedback-Stats-That-You-Need-to-See

[ii]Why It’s So Hard to Hear Negative Feedback: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/26/smarter-living/why-its-so-hard-to-hear-negative-feedback.html  

[iii]How the Brain Responds to Feedback: https://www.iedp.com/articles/how-the-brain-responds-to-feedback/

[iv]Harvard Business Review: How to Keep your Cool during a Performance Review. https://hbr.org/2012/01/how-to-receive-feedback