If You Want Actionable Feedback, Pay Attention to Who Gives It

By Melissa Suzuno
on Jun 5, 2018 10:00:40 AM


If your goal is to give your employees the best feedback possible, you’ve probably already given some thought to what that feedback should look like. But what about who feedback should be coming from?

At first glance, the answer may seem obvious: Managers should be the ones to give feedback to their direct reports… shouldn’t they?

While in some cases it makes sense for managers to give feedback to their direct reports, there will be many other situations when it’s best to collect feedback from others. This is due to the fact that many companies no longer adhere to a rigid hierarchical structure. Let’s examine this in a bit more detail.

The network of teams

In the modern workplace, an employee’s direct manager is rarely the person they work closest with. Throughout the course of a year, an employee may work with others on their team, people from different teams, and managers from other departments.

HR industry analyst Josh Bersin describes this shift in the workforce in the following way: “today’s digital world of work has shaken the foundation of organizational structure, shifting from the traditional functional hierarchy to one we call a “network of teams.” This new model of work is forcing us to change job roles and job descriptions; rethink careers and internal mobility; emphasize skills and learning as keys to performance; redesign how we set goals and reward people; and change the role of leaders.”

This shift means that we need to look beyond direct managers when seeking relevant and actionable feedback.

So, who should give feedback?

Now that we’ve established that an employee’s direct manager might not always be the best person to give feedback, let’s look at who should be giving it.

People who work together often

The best approach is to use a system that can automatically generate feedback requests based on the people an employee works with most closely. By using data from email, calendars, IM, etc., this type of system can ensure that employees get feedback that’s relevant—and well-rounded.

People who have worked together recently

Feedback should be timely—it won’t help if it’s in reference to something that happened six months or a year ago. So ensure that you’re collecting feedback frequently, and that your system is able to adapt to changes in employees’ projects and collaborators on an ongoing basis.

A wide variety of people—not just the ones the employee chooses

If you give employees the ability to request feedback from their peers, they will tend to seek out reviews from fellow employees who they believe are likely to give them positive feedback, both as a way to protect their ego and to ensure they get a bonus or raise in the cases when financial rewards are tied to performance. This type of confirmation bias is common in peer-requested feedback. It also means that feedback requests may be spread unevenly throughout the organization. Zugata can automatically send requests and cycle through all relevant people, which ensures that each employee gets feedback from a wide variety of people and no single person gets burdened with numerous feedback requests.

People who know how to give good feedback

Giving good feedback isn’t something most people know how to do automatically—it’s a skill that takes practice. Luckily, by offering structured templates for feedback, you can ensure that everyone can give feedback that’s useful and actionable. Learn more about Zugata’s structured feedback templates here.

A few final thoughts

University of North Carolina professor Barbara Fredrickson states, “We become more open-minded, resilient, motivated, and persistent when we feel safe.” This means that it’s essential to create a space where employees don’t feel threatened by giving and receiving feedback. You can achieve this by promoting openness, honesty, and transparency while showing that you don’t expect anyone to be perfect. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing their weaknesses and know that they won’t be penalized for making mistakes.

When everyone has the chance to give and receive feedback, you can create a high-performance culture where employees are empowered to learn and grow. Who doesn’t want that for their company?

How to Deliver High-Quality Feedback that Drives Performance


Topics: Employee Development, Continuous Feedback

Author: Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno is a freelance copywriter who enjoys exploring the intersection of people and work.

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