Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: How to Use Feedback to Strengthen Your Team’s Work

By: Carter Armand, Dylan Hosmer, Shabir Mohsenyan, Shelby Ullman, and Jeremy Zema, Mason students in the School of Business

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

Giving and receiving feedback is a vital process in the workplace. Focusing on how to handle and encourage constructive criticism within a team is especially important. Criticism affects the roles each team member may play. Here is how to use feedback in a positive way, to strengthen your team’s work.


A team can use both positive and negative reinforcement tactics to improve its success. Feedback is one of the best ways to create a productive and outcome-producing environment. This article discusses different styles of communication skills that bring a team closer personally, almost like friends. They found that this allowed a team to cooperate much more effectively than a team that participated in less personal activities like Ice Breakers or team-building activities. Forbes mentioned that “building effective teams requires practice at being a team very similar to music groups and sports teams”. This means a team’s performance focuses on the team’s ability to organize and set goals. Recently, researchers discovered that it is more important for a team to collaborate as peers because they are willing to communicate problems and solve issues more quickly that way.

How to Receive Feedback

A key part of growing as a professional is being able to receive negative feedback. Frequently, receiving negative feedback can be difficult and could potentially be taken personally. This Harvard Business Review article explains preparing to receive negative feedback. It also discusses the process of building on critiques and being open to improvement. The article explains that the three best steps for processing feedback are to: focus on listening, avoid being defensive, and use the time given to reflect on yourself and what was said.

When focusing on listening, your mind may wander or overanalyze because you’re in an uncomfortable situation. That can cause you to miss out on essential pieces of information shared. Being able to relax and focus would allow you to directly obtain feedback and use it to progress through your career. You can do so by removing yourself briefly from the situation and breaking the feedback apart.

The next step is to avoid being defensive. Defensiveness is a common reaction when put in a situation like this. This article states that defensive behaviors distract you from feeling shamed or your feelings being hurt. Although this is a common human reaction, it is best to avoid this because of multiple reasons. First, a manager could see this defensiveness as stubbornness, and if so, that could harm your advancement opportunities. Another reason is that these comments are meant to help with personal growth, not as personal attacks. Finally, take time to reflect. In a job, emotions are high, especially in group projects or in the opportunity to receive criticism. This reflection time allows you to look deeper into your actions or what could have been better. At the moment, you may not realize you did something wrong, so it is best to take some time to reflect.

Managing Feedback

In today’s workplaces, group projects have become more critical than ever before. It is essential to learn how to manage the group feedback you receive well. Alongside that, you also need to learn how one person can manage and receive feedback in order to improve productivity. This article discusses how you could manage and receive group feedback so it could benefit you as an individual. According to the article, “Ask plenty of questions. Ask for time if you need it to process the feedback you are getting. Take notes, or ask the other person for notes to revisit the feedback later on”.

Asking questions, especially if you are part of a group project, is vital for you and the rest of the group, since this will help the group meet its goals. Asking about receiving feedback also will benefit you, since it will help you or another person improve themselves and their productivity. You should not show any fear when asking questions about your feedback as doing so would not benefit you.

Both managers and associates can give you feedback respectfully. They are there to assist you with your work. You may sometimes experience unexpected feedback at work. Rather than getting defensive, try to become more open to the feedback given at your workplace.

A Culture of Friendly Feedback

The Management Center details multiple vital ideas to create a team culture that encourages friendly feedback and taking feedback positively. Feedback can impact well-being either positively or negatively, depending on the way it is used and delivered.

There are crucial aspects of meeting with your team with the intent of giving feedback that prioritizes mental health and well-being, as outlined by the mental health organization Charlie Waller. The first method is to talk explicitly with your team about the culture you want to make. For example, you could discuss what they would like to see with your team, share a broad understanding that you feel is best, or outline critical points in the culture. Second, it is vital to develop a standardized system through which you all can give feedback. You want to inform your team when feedback is necessary, why there is feedback provided, and who will be having it. Next, if you are the leader, you want to ensure that you exemplify the right way to take criticism. Keep an open mind, ask questions, and stay positive. Additionally, you want to ensure that you provide positive feedback, especially if you already offer negative feedback. Starting with mostly positive feedback will ease the team into being open to and benefiting from all feedback, even if it is critical. Finally, always prioritize relationship building, and aim to build relationships with your team in all feedback you give. Focusing on positive relationships is the key to benefitting your well-being, as good relationships are the foundation of a positive workplace experience.

One of the students who helped write this article has personally experienced feedback and criticism that positively encouraged a better team culture. At his current workplace, he receives feedback in a respectable manner. Then he fixes the problem or schedules a meeting in order to resolve the issue at hand. Once the issue is resolved to the best of his abilities, his whole team benefits because the employees feel heard and continue to provide their best efforts on all their projects.

This article suggests that after receiving criticism, you should analyze the criticism by following a few steps. By understanding and processing the criticism, you are allowing yourself to respect that there is room for improvement. The article covers how to handle different types of criticism while maintaining your professionalism.

Along with negative feedback and criticism, it is important to respond to positive comments as well. When appropriate, you should be able to ask for any negative or positive feedback so that you can strengthen your role on the team.

Using feedback well can benefit not only you as an individual professional, but your team as well. Feedback is essential to you as an individual and your work within a team, because it allows you all to see the situation from a different perspective that allows for improvement.

Additional Resources

Learn more about well-being research into feedback at work in this Greater Good Science Center article.

This research study published by the National Library of Medicine investigates how to give and receive feedback effectively.

This National Library of Medicine article is a how-to guide to giving and receiving effective feedback.

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