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Tech Tim (@TechTim42)
Tech Tim (@TechTim42)

Posted on • Originally published at Medium

How to give feedback and receive feedback

Imagine a conversation starting like this.

Oh, this is the feedback from the team for you, I made a spreadsheet, you are ...

  • you are smart and brave for new work
  • you don't listen
  • you are unprofessional
  • you write good codes, but ignore people comments, etc

Your manager (Tom) made a spread sheet to talk the good points and bad points about you (Bob).

a conversation between two female software professionals

What is the problem in it?

Originally I thought this was common and OK way for a manager to give a feedback to a software engineer, but after learning and sharing between other engineers, I found this is not a good way.

Because all the feedback is not constructive, not only the negative ones, even the positive ones.

No joking, this unclear feedback, it may destroy the team, because you are unprofessional,

  • how unprofessional is unprofessional,
    • is it dues to I broke a company cup by accident when I fix a bug?
    • is it because I didn't buy Tony a coffee?
    • is it due to I don't have a master degree?

Feedback receivers may think of a lot of potential reasons.

After this imagination, if your emotion is high, trust me you are not alone, the research says

Unclear feedback is very common. This is true even in performance reviews where the feedback giver had time to think things through.

  • From Culture AMP Essential Feedback Session

Before giving or receiving feedback, we might better to learn how to give feedback (or how to coach team to give feedback for managers)

How to give feedback

Be Specific

be specific in each topic

Unclear feedback will not happen, so be specific. For example, instead of say you are unprofessional, say something like

Use BIQ Template to give

  • behavior, what
  • impact, what it cause
  • question, ask receivers' thoughts/opions

Hi Bob, something you did could be better, because I found you did not format your codes properly before you merge your codes(what), happened 3 times this week. This will give bad influence our code quality (impact). How did you see it? (question)

Even this is a negative feedback, it will still low a receiver's emotion.

From a manager perspective

If you are Manager Tom, and the feedback from Alice to Bob is not clear, try to ask Alice first to be more specific before passing to Bob, otherwise, you should not pass to Bob.

Avoid too much feedback when give

not too much in feedback

If the feedback is more than that, focus on one or two each time, and leave others for next conversation.

Behavior vs Person

behavior vs person

We might easy to give feedback based on what we think people are thinking. This is dangerous and give bias.

Try to separate behaviors from person. For example,

  • Instead of You didn't want to finish task => I found that you didn't finish task yesterday.
  • Instead of You are not a social person, I dislike it => I found sometimes your language was hard to understand, I would like you could improve your communication skills

When you receive feedback

It is fine to feel defensive when receive feedback


Yes, all people feel defensive, especially for negative feedback, beware of your body language and tone.


  • Relaxing your posture
  • Uncrossing arms
  • Nodding and eye contact

Try verbal communication

verbal talk outside of office

To ask back questions to understand the feedback, sometimes receivers may feel awkward, but without understanding it may give more problems.

  • Try understand the feedback fully
  • Show them you value their perspective
  • Encourage open and honest feedback in the future


  • To give feedback

    • Use BIQ and be specific
    • Avoid too much feedback
    • Separate behaviors from person
  • To receive

    • Bewares of your own body language and tone, and try relax
    • Communicate more to understand feedback better

You may have already experienced these unclear feedback, next time, try ask back to be as clear as possible, and when give feedback, try use BIQ to give clear feedback too.

Thanks for reading.

Top comments (8)

crisoncode profile image
Cristian Estarlich

Nice post!

I'm learning about how to give and receive feedback and more complex / important, implement this as a "culture" in my team.

Feedback is always needed in the work and sometimes the people does not have the predisposition to give and receive it.

I followed the steps that you said (BiQ) without be aware about this kind of template. Thanks for that, seems stupid but this method can give an extra point of agility.

amabe_dev profile image

There is a nice idea to try for this: ask everybody how they would like to receive feedback.

I do not remember where I heard it. But the idea was to keep a place where the way everybody like to receive feedback written.

This way, when we want to give feedback to someone, we can do it how they prefer to make it easier to receive.

By how they like receiving it I mean either written as private messages or directly while speaking in private. (I think nobody would like to receive it in public.)

timhub profile image
Tech Tim (@TechTim42)

That is true, no matter negative or positive, i don't think anyone would like in public.

IMO, Even for positive one, I will not enjoy receiving it in public.

j3ffjessie profile image

Another good feedback tool is the Well, Better, Next line of questioning.

What did I do well?
What can I do better?
What should I do next?

Also when presenting this line of questioning for feedback you can present your idea of what your answers to those are before hand. I choose not too because I hate evaluating myself. It has worked great so far for me. Received great feedback that has helped me correct minor issues and continue good practices.

balastrong profile image
Leonardo Montini

A great read to go even further on this topic is this book: Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well written by Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen.

You should read it if you haven't yet :)

harithzainudin profile image
Muhammad Harith Zainudin

this is a really good template to follow. i didn't aware of a proper way to give or receive feedback. But when I gave feedback to my team, i will try as much as possible to avoid them from "break" or sad. thanks for the advice!

frankfont profile image
Frank Font

Tim you've got some good advice here.

I'll add this --- seeking feedback is good too. For example, after a meeting sometimes I will ask a few people privately how they feel the meeting went. Was it productive? What could I have done to improve the experience. Etc.

timhub profile image
Tech Tim (@TechTim42)

Good tips :)