How to give feedback and receive feedback

August 9, 2022

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.

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