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How to Receive Feedback

By Jessica Bacon
December 23, 2020
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Feedback is a common strategy for changing behavior in the workplace and when implemented correctly it can be very effective.  In fact, in some cases, specific feedback has proven to be more effective than monetary compensation.  Roscoe et al. (2013) compared the effects of specific feedback versus the delivery of money contingent on the acquisition of skills and found that performance-specific instructions were critical to skill acquisition, whereas, delivery of money had little effect. 

The participants involved in the above study were highly motivated to acquire the selected work-related skills, however, and the provided feedback was well received by recipients.  Obviously, this is not always the case.  Receiving feedback can be difficult and many find the process to be uncomfortable. Feedback may not be effective in changing staff behavior if individuals are not receptive.  A staff person’s ability to accept new suggestions and ideas may be an important factor in whether or not performance feedback will result in changes in staff behavior.  

Can individuals be trained to accept feedback more effectively, and, as a result, achieve greater competency? 

Another recent study outlines how researchers implemented behavioral skills training to target behaviors demonstrated by employees during feedback sessions with supervisors (Ehrlich et al, 2020).  In this study, employees received feedback regarding their ability to format email correspondence correctly. The participating employees received this feedback both prior to and after they received training that targeted how to receive feedback.  

Training on how to receive feedback consisted of explicit instruction targeting eight specific behaviors that were identified by employers as desirable behaviors for employees to exhibit while receiving feedback.

The eight behaviors targeted for behavioral skills training were as follows: 

  • Arrives prepared for the meeting; e.g. has the materials necessary to record feedback and recommendations. 
  • Maintains eye contact during the meeting to indicate whether or not the feedback is being heard. 
  • Asks appropriate follow-up questions to enhance the quality of feedback. 
  • Acknowledges corrective feedback, focusing on how to correct mistakes.
  • Demonstrates active listening; allowing feedback-giver to review information
  • Commits to behavior change, demonstrating that they are willing to make the necessary changes to correct the issue. 
  • Indicates appreciation for the feedback, increasing the likelihood that feedback sessions will continue. 
  • Demonstrates appropriate overall demeanor, remaining neutral, and professional throughout the feedback session. 

After being provided with training that focused on demonstrating the above-listed skills, and participating in feedback sessions while implementing these skills, the employees completed a greater percentage of correctly formatted emails.  These results indicate that feedback was more effective after receiving targeted instruction on how to receive feedback.  

Although this study did not address which behaviors would be most effective when receiving feedback, it serves as a preliminary investigation of how employees should behave when receiving verbal feedback. The authors state that further research is needed in order to refine the list of skills critical to receiving feedback. 

 

 

Resources:

Ehrlich, R.J., Nosik, M.R.,Carr, J.E. & Byron Wine (2020).

Roscoe, E.M., Fisher, W.W., Glover, A.C, & Volkert, V.M. (2006).  Evaluation the relative effects of feedback and contingent money for staff training of stimulus preference assessments. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 39, 63-77.

Teaching Employees How to Receive Feedback: A Preliminary Investigation. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 40:1-2, 19-29.

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