Do’s and don’ts for creating a feedback culture

Marijn de Geus
Founder & CEO
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A professional feedback culture increases the learning capacity of organizations and is crucial for success. Still, people experience a threshold for giving and receiving feedback. Your employees are afraid of feedback. Am I doing it correctly? How are they going to respond? No less than 46 percent of Dutch office employees is nervous about giving feedback, our recent research showed. It’s essential to know what the problem is in order to be able to help them. Where are the bottlenecks? And how to fix them?

Insecure about receiving

It’s not just giving feedback that causes problems. While little over half of the employees think they can handle criticism well, 34 percent does not feel at ease when receiving feedback. 39 percent asks questions to learn from it and a mere 7 percent thanks for the feedback. People also feel insecure (23%) or become defensive (19%). It is important that both the sender and the receiver feel able and at ease in this shape of communication, while these rolls regularly switch between people.

When feedback is not immediately accepted, people should know how to react too. In his book ‘Contradiction’, Peter van Lonkhuyzen offers four instructions for a culture with open exchange of ideas, where people dare to address and contradict each other:

  • Give contradiction an initial shape, time and label, like the ‘Contradiction Hour’.
  • Manage the expectations and denote the boundaries to prevent negativity.
  • Train communication skills, so that feedback evokes less resistance.
  • Persevere for more than just a few months to see real change.

Feedback training

To facilitate a real feedback culture, you’ll need to make employees feel at ease, both when giving and receiving feedback. It should become a part of the organization culture. An example of an organization putting this into practice is Rabobank. The Dutch bank regularly offers individual exercises to make sure acquired feedback skills remain intact. Employees are offered an online training program spanning multiple months, specified to their function, with realistic practice situations. On top of that, a skill assessment in advance shows their managers what they should pay attention to. This way, Rabobank stimulates mutual feedback within the organization.

Don’t give up

Mutual feedback offers opportunities to organizations, as long as employees are being supported. When the necessary skills aren’t available throughout the organization, the one team or employee actually wanting to change will give up quickly. Employees should know how to formulate feedback, but also with which attitude to receive it and how SMART agreements are made to be able to address each other.

A professional feedback culture does not just develop out of the blue. Do you want more mutual feedback in your organization? Then train your employees, create specific moments for it and explain what is expected and what isn’t. Don’t give up and you will see the results. Not just the working environment will be improved, but also the services that are being delivered. Find more insights about stimulating behaviour through training in our free e-book!

About Marijn de Geus

Portrait Marijn de Geus

TrainTool brings soft skills in your organisation to the next level. The only way to develop and maintain communication skills and commercial skills is practice. TrainTool offers unlimited online practice and objective level measurement. This way, we systematically help organisations to reach a higher level of competence.


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