What Is Feedback?

Giving feedback means giving someone information back.

The word feedback originally comes from technology. In the world of work, it is used to give someone feedback on their work or behavior. Everyone can give feedback to everyone they deal with at work: Supervisors to employees and vice versa, team members to each other, customers to the customer advisor, business partners to each other.

Effect on Four Levels

Feedback can be positive or negative and works on four levels:

  • Content (matter)
  • Appeal (message)
  • Relationship (how the feedback provider and feedback recipient relate to each other)
  • Self-revelation (perception, opinion, intention)

Versatile Functions

Feedback functions can be:

  • Control behavior
  • Help to achieve goals
  • Encourage and motivate
  • Find and rectify errors
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Stimulate learning processes
  • Improve work results
  • Promote commitment and identification with the work
  • Improve self-assessment
  • Make better decisions

From Spontaneous to Institutionalized

We experience spontaneous, informal feedback all the time in our day-to-day work, in the form of praise or criticism: "Hey cool, you've already sold twenty units" or "Oh no, now you're giving me extra work". The effect is usually brief and limited.

However, feedback is also specifically sought in companies in order to find out what can be done better and how employees can be developed.

Methods include, for example:

  • Feedback forms for customers
  • Feedback round at the end of a meeting or event
  • Feedback discussions: between team members, between superiors and employees
  • 360-degree feedback: feedback from superiors and colleagues as well as a self-assessment
  • Radical Candor: The term means "radical openness". Employees can give feedback as openly as they might otherwise only do after resigning. The discussions do not take place with the employee's own line manager, but with another manager.

Giving and receiving feedback can be very difficult. You can find out how to do this in the article "How to get your feedback right" and "How to receive feedback without frustration" (see below).


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid