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Why coworker feedback is so important and 5 ways to give it
The workforce is a collaborative, team-oriented environment.
It’s not often that many people’s jobs allow them to work without interaction with other colleagues. So when it comes to providing feedback for coworkers, it’s important to hone employee feedback skills. Feedback is a critical component of unlocking your employees’ performance. And oftentimes, those moments for feedback are powerful even if just between two colleagues.
If you’re looking to build a culture of feedback in your workplace, it’s good to start examining your connections. Feedback works well when employees have a deep sense of trust and psychological safety with their team members. But our research shows us that 43% of people don’t feel connected at work. Furthermore, 38% of people don’t trust their co-workers.
So, how do you know if your employees are comfortable giving feedback to their own coworkers? How are you creating an employee experience where people feel comfortable providing feedback? In what ways are you investing in building trust, communication skills, and rapport within your teams?
In this post, we’ll talk about the importance of giving coworker feedback. We’ll also provide some examples — and how you can build an engaged workforce powered by feedback.
Why giving feedback to coworkers is so important
Providing feedback may not intuitively feel like a part of the colleague-to-colleague relationship. In fact, some might be hesitant to provide any feedback whatsoever because employees can assume it’s the responsibility of the manager.
While manager feedback for their employees is important, co-workers also have a responsibility. It's part of contributing to creating a culture of feedback. And the impact is stronger than you may think.
In fact, data backs this up. One study found that employees are 54% more likely to quit if they have a “toxic” employee on their team. Many times, feedback can curb an unpleasant interaction from becoming a toxic one.
But alternatively, those high in social connections reap the benefits. Workers who are highly connected with their coworkers see a 92% increase in professional growth. They also experience a boost in well-being and greater goal attainment.
When you think about it the results of these studies may not be that surprising. Your co-workers are the people you let off steam with during breaks. Sometimes, your colleagues know more details about what you do on a daily basis than your family or friends. You might spend more time with your coworkers than you do with some of your closest loved ones.
When you’re not getting along with a teammate, your stress levels go up. It becomes much more difficult to get work done. Taking some time to create a positive relationship with your colleagues goes a long way. But a critical component to building meaningful relationships with colleagues is the ability to give (and receive) feedback.
A report by TINYpulse revealed that the top reason for employees to go the extra mile is peer motivation and camaraderie. Giving positive feedback is a simple way to show appreciation to your co-workers and foster positive relations. Recognizing each other’s achievements can create a strong feeling of acceptance and solidarity.
And feedback for your coworkers doesn’t always have to be negative or constructive feedback. Employee recognition helps build rapport, boost employee morale, and encourage new ideas. Positive feedback for your coworkers can help increase your team’s engagement. It also helps to build rapport, especially when it’s time to give constructive criticism.
How do you write worker feedback?
A feedback mechanism is only effective if you know how to use it well. For many feedback conversations, it’s hard to figure out how to best put it in writing. If you’re not sure how to write effective employee feedback, here are some tips to keep in mind.
Determine what type of feedback can be put into writing
Sometimes, there are feedback conversations that need to be face-to-face. For example, you might work regularly with a colleague. For whatever reason, you and this colleague simply don’t see eye to eye. You might feel like this person is blocking your ability to get work done. It could be more complicated than a written email can solve.
For anything related to conflict resolution, it’s best to have a live conversation. Instead of trying to put words into writing, which can easily get misconstrued, get on a call. Talk with this person live and try to put your problem-solving hat on. That extra effort to have a difficult conversation, especially when it’s about negative feedback, will be much more appreciated.
However, sometimes, written feedback is easiest. I once managed an intern for a summer who helped me draft copy for various marketing communications projects. She put a lot of hard work into these projects. But I noticed that she continuously had some grammatical errors. In our regular one-on-ones, I provided high-level feedback on her performance. But a quick Slack or email helped to address some of the one-off feedback.
Evaluate the type of feedback your given before you decide to put it in writing. You might be able to send a coworker feedback over Slack or email. Or it might warrant a more in-depth check-in.
Leverage performance management tools to provide written feedback
There might be certain times of the year or experiences that warrant written feedback. For example, I recently had a co-worker request 360-degree feedback through BetterUp.
Your organization’s performance management system might prompt colleagues to provide written feedback. Sometimes, organizations also ask colleagues to provide feedback when it’s the annual performance review season.
If you work for an organization that requests formally written feedback during designated times, take advantage of it. Ask your HR or manager for some guidance on how to best provide written feedback with your respective tool.
Think about the desired outcome or goal
Before you dive into writing your feedback (positive or constructive), think about the goal. What outcome do you want to achieve? Are you hoping your feedback leads to behavior changes? Do you want this colleague to collaborate with you better? What sort of ways can this feedback improve your work environment? Are you hoping this colleague can take on new responsibilities?
Whatever your goal is, treat it as your North Star. Then, start writing out your feedback. If you were to put yourself in your colleague’s shoes, how would you receive that feedback? What would make positive behavior changes? What is most beneficial (and important) to the rest of the team?
Don’t overlook the power of positive written feedback
Feedback has that automatic negative connotation to it. But it’s time we flip the script on the word feedback. It’s not always negative.
At BetterUp, we think of feedback (both positive and constructive) as a gift. It’s a mechanism to help us become better team players and better ambassadors for our mission.
If you have positive feedback to share, think about how you can leverage that in written ways. For example, a congratulatory or shout-out on Slack or in a team meeting can go a long way. You can send a meaningful email to the colleague you’d like to recognize (and perhaps also share it with their manager). Timely feedback after the completion of a big cross-functional project or a campaign launch is a great way to start building your positive regular feedback muscle.
Make sure you’re recognizing your peers for their great work. You can also find some examples of positive feedback in this article if you’re feeling stuck.
How to give coworkers positive and constructive feedback
We’ve touched on some examples of feedback before. But let’s walk through some more concrete examples of both positive and constructive feedback to give to your colleagues.
How to give positive feedback to coworkers
- Be timely. Let’s say your entire team just did a lot of good work to launch a new program. The program is going really well so far, and you want to recognize your project manager.
Without them, the project could’ve easily steered off course. In your team’s Slack channel, you post a thoughtful message that highlights some of the project manager’s key contributions on the day after the program launched.
- Consider your company culture. If teamwork is a big part of your company culture, it should be recognized regularly in your feedback loops.
Make sure any sort of core value or aspect of your company culture receives positive feedback. It’s a great way to reinforce positive attitudes and positive behaviors.
- Lead by example. If your leaders aren’t giving positive feedback, it’s probably likely that your employees won’t either. Make sure your leaders are encouraged to give positive feedback to their teams. Develop those leadership skills with managers and encourage everyone to do the same.
How to give constructive feedback to coworkers
- Lead with empathy. Let’s face it. Constructive feedback can be hard to hear. And while it’s most likely meant with the best intentions, it’s good to spend some time to make sure your colleagues understand that you care.
Lead with empathy and reiterate that you’re sharing feedback with them to help better them and your working relationship. You might also ask for feedback in return.
- Be curious. If a colleague makes a mistake or doesn’t seem to be grasping a concept, it can be easy to jump to conclusions. Take your curiosity to the next level.
Ask questions about their process and try to learn about their behaviors and mindsets. If you’re curious, you’re better positioned to help guide them in the right direction. It requires understanding where they’re starting from. And you might learn something new along the way, too.
- Listen — and make space for questions. Listening is so critical to any healthy relationship. The same goes for relationships between colleagues in the workplace. How are you making space to listen to your colleagues?
Virtual coworker feedback
In this hybrid and remote world of work, feedback becomes a little more complicated. We can’t just hop over to someone’s desk and have that in-person conversation anymore. And to be honest, the virtual relationship is one that takes a more concerted effort to build.
If you’re providing virtual feedback for coworkers, consider these questions:
- What’s your rapport like with your colleague? Let’s say you’re a new employee. You’ve completed virtual onboarding and you’re just starting to get to know your team.
A colleague recently requested 360-degree feedback through your performance management tool. You haven’t spent much time getting to know this colleague. Instead of providing in-depth feedback, you give high-level feedback. You know you want to spend some more time building rapport and getting to know the colleague before you provide feedback.
- Is this the type of feedback you can give over Slack, or do you need to hop on Zoom? While working virtually does have downsides, it doesn’t mean you can’t meet in a virtual face-to-face meeting. Consider the platforms you can use to provide feedback.
- Is your feedback timely? Regardless of whether you’re providing virtual or in-person feedback, it needs to be delivered in a timely manner. Make sure you’re providing feedback as close as possible to the event and/or situation. If you have the opportunity to provide real-time feedback, even better.
- What sort of feedback mechanisms can you leverage? Working virtually has opened up the future of work to all sorts of asynchronous communication tools.
We have Slack, email, Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and more. We have performance management tools, workforce management tools, and other HR-related software. Figure out what sort of feedback mechanism works best for the message you’re delivering.
When to give feedback to a coworker
If you’re looking for some examples for feedback for coworkers, look no further. We’ve compiled three scenarios to help guide you through giving effective feedback.
Encouraging positive behaviors
A new team member recently joined your team. You’ve been assigned to help train and onboard this new team member.
Previously, this team member was working in a different role. This new role is a lateral move for them, though they’re learning a lot from scratch. While you’re training this new team member, you want to make sure they are building confidence in their work.
To help, you give positive feedback every time they complete something they’ve never done before. For example, this new colleague completed a report with the software you trained them on. You decide to give positive, real-time feedback to help reinforce positive behaviors. Over time, this new team member grows in confidence. As a result, you’ve helped increase both your and their level of employee engagement on the team.
Providing constructive feedback on a project
You’ve been working on a cross-functional project for the last couple of months. Along the way, there have been some roadblocks. You felt there were some gaps in communication from one particular team member.
Because you didn’t have full visibility into this team member’s workstream, you assume the team member wasn’t invested in the project. Sometimes, it felt like surprises would pop up that would delay some key deliverables.
While it was a little bumpy, your cross-functional team managed to launch the project. After the project, you decide you want to host a post-mortem to evaluate how it went. You set up a one-on-one with the team member who you felt caused some of the roadblocks.
In that meeting, you ask a lot of questions about the team member’s evaluation of how it went. You learn in that meeting that the team member was juggling multiple workstreams across multiple teams. Because of this, you learn the team member was battling burnout while balancing priorities.
Instead of negative feedback, you reiterate how you are a team player, regardless of what team you sit on. You decide to share that some of the hiccups with the project impacted your work.
But because you have another cross-functional project coming up with the same team member, you ask them to share with you when they’re overwhelmed. You share this feedback with your manager and ultimately, you get another person to join the team to help manage workloads.
What to keep in mind when giving feedback to coworkers
Here are five things to keep in mind when giving feedback to coworkers.
When to give positive feedback
Knowing when to give positive feedback is half the battle. Common instances which warrant recognition are
- when you’ve noticed your colleague demonstrate exceptional skills
- when they’ve achieved a personal goal or
- when they’re in need of encouragement
Keep in mind that reasons for giving feedback should be measured based on the individual, not on the size of the achievement.
For example, let’s say you’ve been coaching a junior colleague on their public speaking skills. It’s important to recognize the positive points of their performance after their first presentation. They might still need to work on things. But positive feedback can give them the encouragement they need to keep practicing.
When formulating your feedback, it’s best to use examples and describe exactly what you found to be positive about their performance. For example, instead of simply telling them they’re good at resolving conflicts, explain how impressed you were with the way they mediated a conflict between two colleagues.
The more descriptive the easier it'll be for them to pick out best practices. Also, recognize behavior over traits. You shouldn’t attribute your colleague’s success with customers to their natural people skills.
Acknowledge that they put time into listening and responding to each individual complaint until the customer is satisfied. Highlighting behaviors signals the need to continue working on these skills rather than taking them for granted.
Where to give positive feedback
When your message is constructive it’s always better to give it in private. Alternatively, giving positive feedback to your colleagues in public can be an even better way to show your appreciation, or boost the receiver’s confidence.
However, be sure to keep in mind the personality of the recipient. If your colleague is more of an introvert they may prefer receiving acknowledgment in private to being put in the spotlight.
On the other hand, giving positive feedback to your manager is usually best in private. Giving them honest positive feedback in a private one-on-one or performance review will minimize your hesitancy at seeming too eager to please the boss.
Timing is important
Feedback should be given as soon as possible after an achievement, making it easier for you and the recipient to recall details so changes can be made.
If the moment is left too long, the effectiveness of your feedback can reduce significantly. Start by supporting your team to provide more feedback to each other over time.
Encourage your team members to achieve more
If it was a senior employee whose coding skills are very impressive, why not ask for some tips? If it’s a junior colleague who’s done well on an assignment, why not suggest they take the lead on the next one?
Unlock the power of feedback with your colleagues
It’s time to start leveraging feedback to unlock your workforce’s full potential.
BetterUp can help. With individualized support, you can help your employees learn how to give effective feedback. A coach can help guide your workforce through challenging conversations. But a coach can also help celebrate the milestones — and push your team to celebrate, too.
Feedback is a powerful tool, especially when used right. Get started with BetterUp today.
Madeline is a writer, communicator, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change. She holds a bachelor's in English Creative Writing and Communication Studies and lives in Denver, Colorado. In her spare time, she's usually somewhere outside (preferably in the mountains) — and enjoys poetry and fiction.