10 Golden Rules to Give (& Receive) Feedback at Work

  • Brace
  • October 17, 2019
  • 9 min

Workplace feedback isn’t a box of chocolates but more like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. You never know what you’re going to get and you may not like it. Despite the challenges, though, feedback at work is incredibly beneficial, and that makes it essential to learn how to give and get it. We’ll discuss the right way to provide input plus 10 clear rules to help make feedback at work pain-free for everyone.

Feedback at Work: A Quick Overview

Feedback comes in many forms: Weekly, yearly, bottom-up, top-down, digital, one-on-ones, 360, the list goes on. The function, however, remains the same.

Employee feedback is an essential method for leaders to get insights and ideas from their team, spot problems early, and adapt leadership strategies to the needs of employees. All of this contributes to better engagement, healthy discussions, increased retention, and improved productivity.

>> Recommended: Learn all the feedback methods and benefits in our complete guide to feedback. <<

Challenges of a Feedback Culture

Maybe you’re thinking “Alright then! Benefits galore and all leaders have to do is talk to their teams!? What’s the hold-up?”

Well, our years of feedback experience at kununu engage have taught us that it’s not quite that simple. Feedback offers a world of possibilities to company leaders but, as many decision-makers know, some managers and employees just don’t know how to give it and take it.

What’s the catch?

Poorly delivered employee feedback can come across as insulting and divisive. Useful discussions can turn into ugly, unproductive rants. And too much feedback at once can cause ideas to be lost and employees to feel ignored.

What’s the takeaway? To get the fruit of employee feedback without the seeds, managers have to be proactive. Feedback at work needs rules and leaders have to provide them.

Read on to find 10 tried and true golden rules to get you started on the path to a pain-free feedback culture.

How to Give Feedback: 10 Golden Rules & Examples

Communicate these 10 rules of feedback to your managers and colleagues to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what’s expected.


Feedback is regular

We don’t unload all our feedback at once. Too much feedback can overwhelm whoever’s working through it. It can even lead them to just dismiss an issue or suggestion. Through regular feedback, you keep your company and colleagues up to date and can then work together to find a solution.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “During the last project, I felt that I had to always ask for information twice. Could we implement a weekly Slack check-in for all those involved in the next project?”
  • ❌ “Last year, everything went badly. The communication in the team was bad. The printer was out of order. And on top of this, I couldn’t concentrate because it was too loud.”

Feedback is descriptive

We only describe situations that we see ourselves. You shouldn’t share rumors through feedback. Instead, describe only your own perception and reaction to behaviors you yourself observed. To keep feedback descriptive, it’s best to refrain from sharing interpretations and value judgments that could hurt others.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “I found the presentation of the new company strategy too short. At least for me, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Would anyone else find a follow-up helpful?”
  • ❌ “I heard that the presentation was terrible. It was too short and totally useless. No one understood anything.”

Feedback is concrete

Our feedback handles specific situations. Only when everyone understands the feedback can it inspire real change. Connect your comments to clear situations so your colleagues can relate and understand.

How to do it:

  • ✔️”Our results for this quarter are worse than the last. In my opinion, maybe we took too many contracts and couldn’t properly finish them. What can we do better for the next quarter?”
  • ❌ “The work in our department is always horrible and uncoordinated. Nothing gets done right.”

Feedback is individual

We respect different opinions. An effective feedback culture gives every employee a voice. That means that you don’t have to channel the feedback of your colleagues. Generalizing can push an opinion on your co-workers that they may not agree with and distorts the workplace mood insights. Focus on your own views and formulate them with “I” or “we” messages.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “I feel that our last weekly meeting was too long. Was it the same for anyone else?”
  • ❌ “Everyone thinks that our weekly meeting is long and boring.”

Feedback is considerate

We don’t insult our colleagues or their work. Your feedback shouldn’t hurt anyone and your word choice can help keep it this way. Formulate your comments so that you could also have a personal conversation about them. Blaming and insults smother every discussion and don’t belong in the feedback discussion.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “In our last three projects, there were a lot of mistakes that were overlooked. We need to pay a bit more attention to quality.”
  • ❌ “The quality of work from my team is pathetic.”

Feedback is useful

We don’t expect the impossible. Changes take time. That’s why not every bit of feedback can be implemented right away. You can, however, help out those in a position to make changes by providing concrete suggestions and allowing time for them to react, take a position on the ideas, or implement your requests. Keep in mind that you don’t have all the information or know all the complications. It’s always best to first ask for an update.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “Is there an update about the fans for summer? Have you already looked at a few offers?”
  • ❌ “We still don’t have enough fans in the office. I knew it already last week that it wouldn’t get done.”

Feedback is current

We give feedback as close to the moment as possible. Have you ever brought up a situation that no one else remembered? That’s a good example of waiting too long. Good feedback needs to be given promptly. Of course, if you are angry, make sure to cool down before giving your input, so that you don’t regret your comment later.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “It occurred to me that there were a lot of misunderstandings during our kick-off on Monday. Can we clarify these soon?”
  • ❌ “At the kick-off last year, there were way too many things that people didn’t understand.”

Feedback is constructive

We give feedback about workplaces, not individuals. Good feedback asks to change something, not someone. That’s why you should never criticize specific colleagues or their efforts. Instead, you should comment on what the larger issue is and offer a possible solution. Specific coworker issues can be discussed in a respectful personal conversation.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “I have a problem using Google Analytics. Could we have a workshop?”
  • ❌ “Sabine’s introduction to Google Analytics is totally useless.”

Feedback is new

We provide new information with our input. Feedback should inspire change and contain constructive suggestions. If you just repeat known problems, it doesn’t develop the conversation. To be more productive, your feedback should provide a new angle or information that expands the perspectives of your colleagues and managers.

How to do it:

  • ✔️ “I think our meeting culture has improved. Unfortunately, a few meetings are still too long. Could we try sending an agenda with the calendar announcement so that we all know which meeting is interesting for us?”
  • ❌ “The meetings are still too long.”

Feedback is balanced

We give positive and negative feedback. Did your team finish a project this week? Was there a positive customer review or did you simply have a nice week at work? Let your colleagues know! After all, appreciation and knowing what you did right is also great feedback.

⬇️ Download the Free Poster PDF Here! ⬇️


kununu engage unverbindlich kennenlernen - wir melden uns umgehend bei Euch!


kununu engage is an application that allows you and your entire company to share continuous and anonymous feedback about what working in the company is like. This insight and transparency can help a company function better and build a stronger company culture.