Skip to main content

Guidelines for giving and receiving feedback

Pattern of arrows pointing in the same direction.

I recently wrote a post about the benefits of a feedback culture and as a follow up to that, I wanted to share some guidelines I wrote up for our team at B12 around giving and receiving feedback. I’m always looking to improve them so if there’s anything I missed out or if you have anything you think I should add, please let me know!

Before I get into the actual guidelines, I always like to share the retrospective prime directive to remind people that we’re all coming at this with the best of intentions:

“Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.” 
— Retrospective prime directive

With that out of the way, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re giving or receiving feedback:

Giving feedback

  • Try to look at the work as if you’re someone that’s using the product. You can start your feedback with “As a user…”. This can help with focusing on the problems rather than solutions.
  • Giving feedback isn’t only about sharing what’s wrong — it’s also important to share what’s working well.
  • Be precise. Don’t just say something is good or bad, try to explain why it’s good or bad. 
  • Avoid the shit sandwich (wrapping negative feedback with positive feedback) because it sends mixed messages.
  • Unless you’re asked, try to stay away from providing solutions. It’s better to focus on the problem and articulating it as best as possible. 
  • Try looking at the work within the bigger context of our product. Are we creating new, and novel, ways of solving problems we’ve already solved?

Receiving feedback

  • Start by giving context. Share a brief description of the problem you’re solving, the goals or outcomes you’re trying to achieve, and what stage of the process you’re in. 
  • Share the type of feedback you’re looking for along with the type of feedback you’re not looking for. In the early stages of a project, you might not be ready for people to nitpick on spacing so let them know you’re in that stage and you don’t need that feedback just yet.
  • Always assume positive intent and never take the feedback personally. People are not criticizing you as a person, they’re providing your input for your work to make it better. 
  • Don’t wait to get feedback. Ask early and often. Try leverage asynchronous methods to collect feedback if you’re more than a day away from a synchronous session. 

If you are sharing work asynchronously, here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Share a timeline for when you need feedback.
  • Make the work you’re sharing accessible. If you share a video, provide written notes and make sure your files are easy to navigate.

Signup for occasional updates from my blog.