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  • Kick Ass Zombie Hunter

Five Ways to Make Feedback Safe

Slot machine / one arm bandit with thumbs up and down as like and dislike icons on the three spinning wheels

Getting feedback right is fundamental not only to performance but maintaining strong relationships with team members.

Because each person has different values and perspectives, it’s rife with possible missteps. Jen thinks you’re challenging her competence while Cody worries you’re questioning his value to the team.

Here are five tips to set the stage and help people be open to feedback.

Be First

Encourage others to give you feedback so they learn giving and receiving feedback is a normal part of the team. Role model how to positively receive feedback so they know what is expected of them. Have discussions on what respectful feedback looks like.

Make Your Intentions Clear

Regularly remind your team that feedback is about learning, growing, and developing. Your job as a leader is to help people realize their potential and that includes letting them know where they can improve. Have discussions on how each person contributes to reaching team and organizational goals. This way they can connect their continued growth with helping the team fulfill its purpose.

Build a Relationship

Taking the time to build trust and connection with people will make giving and receiving feedback easier for everyone involved. Feedback is easier to receive when we know it’s coming from someone we have a good relationship with and has our best interests in mind. Getting to know people first will also give you insight into the best way to give feedback and what the impact of the feedback will be.

Ask for Permission

Sometimes people aren’t ready to receive feedback yet. It might be that the feedback is particularly tough to hear, or they may just be having a bad day. Give people the small courtesy of asking for permission first. We have one client, that when she needs to have an awkward feedback conversation will ask, “Do I have permission to be frank with you?”

If they’re not ready for it, she won’t push because they won’t be receptive in that moment, or it could turn into a negative situation impacting the rest of the team. In this situation, you can work with them to plan a better time.

Offer Support & Follow up

If necessary, offer support along with the feedback. Does the person need training or resources? Do they need coaching from you or a teammate? Ensure they know you are there to help them be their best.

Depending on the nature of the feedback, follow up later. If you are unsure how someone perceived the feedback or if it was a difficult conversation, check in a few days later in case you need to have another conversation.

Ken Blanchard said, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” However, it only works well if it doesn’t leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.



Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Think of a bad experience you had receiving feedback, what made it negative?

  2. Think of a positive experience you had receiving feedback, what made it positive?

  3. As a team, discuss what good feedback looks like on your team and what can change to make giving and receiving feedback a more positive and effective process.


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