Organisational Development

Giving and receiving feedback

Workplaces need effective communication to succeed and thrive, and constructive feedback is a key part of that. Learn about the value of positive and developmental feedback, and how to deliver and receive it in a constructive way.

Why is it important to give feedback?

Feedback helps us learn more about ourselves, our strengths, behaviours, how our actions affect others, and areas which need development. Increasing our self-awareness encourages personal development.

Feedback can be both positive and corrective/developmental. The latter highlights areas that we need to strengthen and helps make our work much better in the long run. Developmental feedback is information provided to an individual about how her/his behavior, actions, style, strategies, etc. are perceived by and affecting others. The primary purpose of feedback is to drive positive change or reinforce good practice. The goal is to develop a skill rather than evaluate performance. This is why it is important to deliver feedback skilfully, so that it provides basis for development.

Effective feedback:

  • Builds relationships/trust and support
  • Clarifies expectations, performance goals and objectives
  • Helps us to see the impact of our actions on others
  • Invites self-reflection and enriches personal development
  • Strengthens the quality of working relationships and collaboration

Ultimately, it should be a valuable experience for both parties, based on mutual trust, respect and open communication.

The secret to giving great feedback

Humans have been coming up with ways to give constructive criticism for centuries, but somehow we're still pretty terrible at it. In this 5-minute TED Talk, cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renninger shares a scientifically proven method for giving effective feedback.

Watch the original video on TED website to access the video transcript.

Barriers to giving feedback

Feedback can be constructive (developmental) or destructive. The key difference being that developmental feedback is specifically about behaviour and solution-focused. In contrast, destructive feedback is personal, evaluative and reactive, damaging relationships and leaving issues unsolved.  

Common reasons that people may withhold feedback include:

  • Fear of the consequences of being open with their perception and how colleagues will react (e.g. becoming emotional and defensive) if we raise a difficult issue. 
  • Discomfort with delivering negative feedback and/or not knowing how to deliver supportive feedback that will bring about positive change.
  • Time pressures due to workload.

We should avoid making assumptions about our team e.g. “of course they know they are doing a great job, I would tell them if they weren’t”. It is equally important to tell people when they are doing a great job. Everyone wants affirmation and acknowledgement that they are respected and valued.

It is also important to be mindful of how people want to receive information. For example, people who are more introverted often may only require a cursory acknowledgement, whereas people with extroverted thinking may need to be told again and again before they ‘hear it'.

Preparing to give feedback

  1. Be clear about your intention and the purpose of the feedback

    One key thing to consider when giving feedback is – What is my intent? What needs to happen as a result of this conversation? Positive intentions may include wanting to improve the quality of a piece of work, wanting to resolve a negative situation, or keeping your team motivated. Corrective/developmental feedback, however, is focused on how a person's behavior, actions, style, strategies, etc. are perceived by and affecting others, and what needs to change. Avoid using the outdated feedback 'sandwich' method. It is 'inedible' and does not work. If you give people positive feedback on a regular basis, developmental feedback does not need to be hidden between slices of positive feedback.

  2. Be clear and concise

    Clear and concise communication is important. Be mindful of the language you are using, your tone and body language.  When delivering difficult messages, often people skirt around the issues or give a long preamble before the dreaded ‘But’. This simply puts people on edge. Be honest, Introduce the topic for discussion, describe or highlight the issue you wish to talk about. This way you will build integrity and trust.

  3. Be timely

    If you deliver regular feedback as part of a continuous improvement process then feedback will always be timely. People will be used to receiving positive and constructive feedback, it will more likely ‘be heard’ from the recipient and be seen as genuine. If you only ever give people feedback when something is wrong or weeks/months after an event it won’t be received and is unlikely to be taken onboard and potentially damage the relationship. 

  4. Be specific

    Give specific and factual information. Base feedback on examples and seek the persons perspective

  5. Ensure that developmental feedback is solution-focused

    Discuss the issue, seek solutions together. Be clear and agree actions, check commitment to action and agree a review timeframe.

  6. Be balanced  

    Research by psychologist Marcial Losada has demonstrated that it takes around three positive comments, interactions, experiences or expressions to counteract the languishing effects of one negative. This 3:1 positivity ratio is referred to as 'the Losada ratio' or the 'Positivity/Negativity ratio'. Overall, Losada's research has shown that the larger the number of positive interactions that people (or teams) experience, the happier they'll feel emotionally, and the better they'll perform. This is not to say that we should only focus on the positives and avoid 'constructive' feedback, but it is something that we should keep in mind to ensure that feedback is heard, builds trust and has a positive impact for the individual.

  7. Plan and prepare

    Don’t rehearse what you are going to say, but give time and consideration to think about your intentions, the outcome you want from the conversation, and examples and solutions you may put forward for discussion.

AID: a simple feedback model An illustrated graphic of a whiteboard with "AID model: Action, Impact, Desired behaviour" written on it

AID is a simple feedback model, developed by Andi Roberts, that can be used for both positive moments and those that need corrective action.


Emphasis is on their actions (e.g. you were 15 minutes late to our team meeting), not on your interpretation of it. So you are feeding back what you observed or heard, not on their intentions, their personality or their character. Limit the number of actions you comment on a level they can handle – far better to give feedback on one key action that they can digest and build on to make a difference, than ten things which leaves the message diluted (and invariably leaves them demotivated). Because this is based on fact it is less likely to be challenged.


This can include positive or negative impact on the end result, or on the process itself e.g. the amount of effort needed on their part to achieve the result, or the impact of their behaviour/actions on other people and the business e.g. "Your lateness had a negative impact on the team and the rest of the meeting as we had less time to cover all of the points on the agenda". Alternatively, instead of stating the impact, you could ask them a question such as "What do you think the impact of X was?".

Desired behaviour or development

Remember, the purpose of feedback is to enhance performance and motivate. So this last stage is important to determine what happens next e.g. develop to make it even better next time around, to correct a mistake or to perfect a process. Put the emphasis on what is missing rather than what is wrong – building on strengths or positives is far more likely to engender enthusiasm. Use open questions and invite them to self-assess e.g. "What do you think you could do differently and how can I support you to make this change?". This will help to gain buy in and you may be surprised by the options they suggest.

Decoding failure, debunking feedback and harnessing learning for success

What happens when two of the most influential management thinkers get together to riff their ideas against each other? In this 8-minute webinar, Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Business School professor renowned for her work on psychological safety, and Adam Grant, organisational psychologist and top-rated professor, deliver an inspiring and illuminating conversation about how to manage (and maximise learning from) failure and how to unlock hidden potential. 

Watch the original video on YouTube to access the video transcript

Receiving feedback

Feedback is a two-way street that is crucial for effective leadership and management. While delivering feedback allows leaders to guide and inspire their team, receiving feedback is equally essential for personal and professional growth. It fosters a culture of open communication, demonstrates humility, and enables leaders to understand their impact, identify blind spots, and continuously refine their leadership approach to better meet the evolving needs of their team and organisation.

Processing feedback goes far beyond listening to it in the moment and implementing it; it involves continuous reflection, conversation, and practice. While much of this happens because of the way we receive feedback, there is much we can do, too, to make sure we’re processing feedback the right way. It can be useful to check in with yourself and ask:

  • Do I have time to listen now? Or would it be better to arrange a quiet time and place so that I can give the feedback my full attention?
  • Am I open and willing to receive feedback?
  • What are the feedback provider’s motives, position, and intent? Do you believe they genuinely want to help you? Do you trust them? It is easy to assign negative motives when the other person is simply trying to help.

After receiving feedback

The very first response to give when someone gives you feedback should be a response of gratitude. Don’t get defensive. Don’t offer to explain what they might not understand. Instead, take time to offer your thanks for the gift you just received — the gift of feedback. When a team member speaks up to offer you their feedback, especially critical or constructive feedback, they’re taking a risk with how you’ll respond. They’re risking potential damage to the relationship or retaliation. Or they’re risking wasting their time by giving feedback to someone who won’t receive it. Starting with “thank you” lets the other person know that risk was worth it and you will take it on board.

After receiving the feedback, take time to reflect. You do not need to respond right away. You may find it helpful to seek more feedback from other members of the team to benefit from different perspectives of the situation. Consider if you have sufficient motivation to act on the feedback, and the potential consequences of not doing anything. Once you have processed and decided how you're going to apply the feedback, share this with the person who gave you the feedback. Thank them again and let them know what changes you will be making moving forwards.

Giving Feedback workshop

Organisational Development offer the 'Giving Feedback: How to lead an effective conversation' workshop as part of the Management Essentials programme. This workshop covers:

  • The benefits of effective feedback, for both the giver and receiver
  • The reasons we may avoid giving feedback and factors that can make feedback less effective
  • Models for giving more effective feedback.

This workshop runs on a rolling basis every term and is open to all staff with or taking on management/leadership responsibilities. View the Organisational Development events calendar to see upcoming workshop dates and book a place.

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Contact and advice

Organisational Development
Sussex House SH-230
01273 075533 (ext 5533)