How to Feel More Secure in Giving and Receiving Feedback at Work
You can approach feedback in ways that feel right to you
Think back to the first time you gave a performance review at your job.
Were you nervous? Afraid to say the wrong thing and hurt someone’s feelings? Makes sense– giving feedback to someone you work with can be intimidating.
If you’ve done a bit of Googling on this topic, you’ve probably come across a ton of different frameworks for giving and receiving feedback.
But here’s the thing: I’m a rebel and a rule-breaker! I don’t have one framework that I use or recommend all the time.
One that I do often reference in my coaching is the Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI)™ feedback model. And it can be useful. I also want to point out that I think that any framework is only as relationally effective as the person using it. I’ve seen the SBI™ framework used in some really beautiful ways. But it can also be used in some dehumanizing ways. 
So in this post, we’ll talk about the essential skills you need for giving feedback. And I’ll also share how you can work on giving and receiving feedback more effectively.
You’re on your way to feeling more confident in this area– let’s keep going!
What emotional intelligence skills play a role in giving & receiving feedback?
There are three main emotional intelligence (EQ) skills you need when giving and receiving feedback. They’re emotional self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.
Queer leaders like you already have a great foundation for these skills.
So let’s see how they play a role in feedback.
1. Emotional self-awareness
Picture yourself before a meeting with a team member who’s not meeting your expectations.
Are you on edge? Relying on your friendly relationship to keep things light? Thinking about calling in sick so you don’t have to deal with it (I mean…you DO feel a little queasy…that counts, right?)
However you’re feeling, your emotional self-awareness can help you to stay grounded as you prepare to give critical feedback.
Here are some questions to think through:
What am I observing?
What’s the situation?
Why do I even need to give this person feedback?
What could happen if I don’t have this conversation?
Now that you’re clear on the facts, use your emotional self-awareness to tap into your underlying feelings:
What am I feeling about the situation?
Am I frustrated? Angry? Hurt?
What stories am I telling myself about what’s going on?
It’s critical to be aware of your feelings and what’s coming up for you as a leader. If this feels like an area where you could use some more support, check out this Awareness Wheel I recommend. 
Remember that time you trusted your colleague to handle sending out an offer letter, and they somehow let it slide?
What happened– did you get upset with them? Did you think they were forgetful? Did you assume they couldn’t handle their responsibilities?
Or were you able to use your empathy to:
Slow down and imagine what could be going on for that person to make that mistake?
Consider why it might've happened?
Check in about what’s going on for them?
That last one is key. If someone is brand new to the team or their role, then their mistakes might show that. That’s a completely different scenario from someone who’s been in their role awhile, then all of a sudden starts missing things or making errors.
Either way, I recommend asking yourself how you can crank up your empathy to get curious about what’s going on for your colleagues.
It’ll play a role in the relationships you have with them, too.
3. Interpersonal relationships
In leadership, we’re often taught that giving feedback is an important part of our role because it’s related to how we get our team to do what we want them to do.
But when we think about feedback that way, we’ve already lost our relational edge. We’ve made feedback a transaction.
So what’s the best thing we can do? Bring your interpersonal skills into the way you give feedback.
To do that, ask yourself questions like:
What is it that I hope to get out of giving them feedback in terms of change and growth?
Is there a behavior that I hope they’ll start/stop doing?
Is there information that I need to be a better leader for them?
How could we strengthen our relationship by having this important conversation?
Try to hold onto the truth that underneath all of this is a relationship between you and this person.
Now that you know the skills you need for giving feedback, let’s talk more about how you can give feedback in ways that feel like you.
What does it look like to give feedback in a way that feels authentic?
As a queer leader, you’re already aware that we’re operating within systems that weren’t built with us in mind. These systems are full of oppressive power dynamics, which means that feedback can be uncomfortable, or even downright harmful.
And that’s why it’s so crucial to look at feedback using an anti-racist framework. 
When we look at feedback through a lens that’s critical of cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist power, we can:
Recognize biases that may be at play (ours and others’)
Focus on behavior and tangible outcomes rather than personality, tone, or style
Pay attention to the way that systemic racism and other systems of power and oppression can impact how somebody performs at work
Notice the impact of white supremacy culture and how it informs our expectations of how people show up at work 
I’ll share an example from my own work of what that could look like in practice.
I am a recovering perfectionist. I was trained up through white supremacy culture to perform, please the people around me, and earn love and approval by being ‘perfect.’ I also learned that I could keep my wild, wandering brain under control by tightly managing the details of my work.
So, when I’m collaborating on a project, and I’m working with someone who doesn’t need the same detailed level of project management that I do, or who’s willing to let ‘good enough be good enough’, I can get freaked out, and fast.
So, before I give a colleague feedback, I need to ask myself:
Is there something that truly needs to be addressed here, or am I doing my perfectionist thing?
Is there something that’s really putting our outcome at risk, or do I just think my way of doing things is the right way?
Is there something in how we’re working that we need to shift to better accommodate our different ways of seeing things?
When we push back on leadership norms that tell us that things have to be a certain way and lead with curiosity instead, we might be surprised by the outcome.
Feedback is an opportunity for us to lead with curiosity
When you give feedback, you get to step into your role as a coach.
You might be thinking “Liz, what?! I thought you were the coach.” And you’re right– but so are you.
You can show up as a coach within your leadership. You get the opportunity to ask questions that are powerful, reflective, and open-ended. You can encourage your colleague to grow through their challenges. 
So what might that look like?
Here are some ways to give useful feedback:
1. Instead of showing someone the ways they made mistakes, ask them to:
Walk you through their process of using a tool
Show you how they make decisions
2. If your colleague knows something didn’t go right, try asking:
“What would you do differently next time?”
“What different choices would you have made?”
“What skills do you need to improve on?”
3. Help your colleague see that you’re there to help them be their best and can guide them to the supports they need by asking:
“What would make it easy for this to go right next time?”
“How can I support you in working on your skills?”
“You’re great at ______. How can you use that to improve in this area?”
Often when people are not performing or have something going on with their work, it can mean that they need more support. And you could be the right person to help them find it.
When you receive feedback, it can be a really good way for you to do some self-coaching. Get curious about yourself. Wonder about the feedback you got. Think about what it means to you, and what you plan on doing with it.
Here’s the way I look at receiving feedback.
Ideally, as leaders when we give feedback, we’re giving the best possible gift we can give. And when you receive feedback, it’s a gift to you. Just like with any other gift you’ve ever received, you get to decide what to do with it.
First, you can show gratitude to whoever offered it to you, because they also took a risk in sharing it with you. 
Then you can think about whether you:
Want to integrate the feedback into who you are
Aren’t sure what to do with it
Are 100% against it
Those are all valid responses.
Remember the next time you get feedback that you’re allowed to take the time to go through the process to decide what you’d like to do with it.
Because maybe you got some feedback you think is BS– and that’s totally valid, too.
I hope you’re given feedback from people who have your best interest in mind in a relational, valuable way.
And I’d be glad to be one of those people if you’re looking for help in this area.
Receiving feedback can feel super personal. And giving it can feel like you’re being overly critical.
But both are necessary to empower yourself and the people you lead.
Need some feedback from a coach on the ways you give and receive feedback?
Look no further– come to one of my group coaching sessions for free as a guest.
It’s a place where I meet with queer leaders like you to support them on topics like this and more.
We’ll be looking forward to meeting you.