How do you prefer to receive feedback?

We’ve all been there. Our manager sits us down to give us professional feedback on our job performance, and we’re sweating bullets. As it turns out, our manager isn’t having much fun either. Harvard Business Review (HBR) surveyed 7,631 people to find out if giving negative feedback was stressful or difficult … 44% agreed that it was.

No matter how uncomfortable providing and receiving professional feedback is, it’s a requirement for any workplace. And, of course, not all feedback is negative. Feedback—positive or negative—provides direction and keeps communication lines open. That’s why we asked the Intuit® community in our June Twitter poll how they prefer to receive feedback.

Professional feedback: now or later?

The 1,700+ respondents to Intuit’s poll were not unanimous in their voting, but the majority (41.8%) did agree with the top feedback preference: In the moment. Weekly one-on-one (26.5%), project review (16.1%), and annual review period (15.6%) were less popular choices.

Why do the majority of people want to hear feedback in the moment?

Everyone has their own reasons, but for some, if there’s even a chance that the feedback is going to be negative, most people want to hear the bad news right away. It’s stressful waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop. It’s also stressful waiting to drop the shoe. The writer of an Inspire Human Resources article, Jaime Klein, CEO of Inspire Human Resources, agrees.

“Harboring constructive feedback is a drag on your own focus and productivity and robs your employee of the chance to improve,” she writes. “The only thing I hear from leaders who finally had the hard conversation is, “I wish I had done that sooner.”

Hearing feedback in the moment also ensures that everyone is on the same page at the same time. Time has a way of erasing or dulling our memories if the feedback has something to do with a situation that has already happened. By addressing what is and is not working in the moment, both sides of the equation know exactly what is being referenced, and can discuss the feedback with clarity.

Professional feedback: communicating effectively

What professional feedback really boils down to is communicating—and communicating effectively. This is something we discussed in Why do development projects stall?. Intuit developers felt that limited resources and unrealistic expectations were the cause of project delays. To overcome these challenges, we discussed the importance of communicating, and based on advice from HelpGuide, an independent nonprofit that runs a mental health website, it is important to understand the “emotion and intentions behind the information.” This mirrors Intuit’s Design for Delight (D4D) mentality: Understanding our customers’ problems and how they feel about it before providing a solution.

With professional feedback, the same rules should apply. Communicating negative and positive information should not only help fix a problem, but also solidify the professional relationship between the employer and the manager. HelpGuide advised that being an engaged listener includes focusing on the speaker, favoring the right ear, and avoiding interrupting. It also means paying attention to nonverbal signals, remaining calm, and asserting yourself respectfully. These are all ways to communicate effectively.

Klein has a few other ways to effectively communicate feedback:

  • Prepare your team for a culture of feedback: Let them know that “open and constructive feedback” will happen regularly and consistently.
  • Use the one-on-one meetings wisely: Make sure the time is spent on development feedback and doesn’t devolve into general discussions about project milestones.
  • Be specific: Vague feedback causes confusion and does not result in valuable change.

She has more tips, including recognizing that each employee will react differently to feedback: “As a leader, your goal is not actually delivering the feedback. Your goal is changing and enhancing employee behavior by delivering effective feedback. I encourage leaders to think about the desired outcome and the individual before crafting a message. For example, some employees might do better with a swift and clear message, while that same message might throw another employee into an anxious state of distraction for the remainder of the day. A little customization goes a long way.”

One more tip is to “stop talking.” The manager needs to allow the employee to participate in the conversation, whether it’s confirming they understand, answer any questions, or hear their thoughts on the feedback itself. It should be a two-way conversation.

It’s also an opportunity to discuss a plan of action.

Professional feedback: Intuit’s mission

To fulfill our mission of powering prosperity around the world, we understand that we must first be a purpose-and-values-driven company. Intuit’s company values include Integrity Without Compromise, Courage, Customer Obsession, Stronger Together, and We Care and Give Back. These are the values that guide us as a company. They also guide us as we provide professional feedback to our valued employees, in the moment and during weekly one-on-one meetings.

It seems to be working. Intuit was recently named one of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for 2021. As Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi says, “For us to make the best decisions as an organization and to have the best debates, it’s important that a diversity of voices are heard. As we say at Intuit, diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.”