Sending and Receiving Constructive Feedback

By Jamie Duncan 30 January 2023
Sending and Receiving Constructive Feedback

Feedback is currency in the information age. Every time you interact with a website or an app or customer service or pretty much anything you are immediately presented with a request to provide feedback on your experience. Uber Eats asks a whole host of questions about my favorite turkey sandwich every time I order it from Jersey Mike’s. For the record, I don’t like the oil and vinegar. I’m a simple creature.

But when we’re all out there working in Technology, getting that same sort of feedback is hard. We’ve built a culture that wants to build each other up. That’s great. I love it when my peers and friends help me stay motivated. But getting honest and frank feedback about things you need to improve on can be incredibly difficult today.

If I “Just keep doing what you’re doing” … ONE. MORE. TIME.

Today I had an internal workshop about personal brand building. Serious kudos to Mike Kahn and Chris Vale for putting it together. It got me thinking about some of the best ways I’ve seen to offer and receive constructive feedback, and I wanted to share them before I forgot.

Ways to offer constructive feedback

  • Strike while the iron is hot

    Offer up a 1:1 with a peer after a meeting. The constructive feedback should be positive, but reflect something you’ve seen that they could work on. I personally try to come from a position of earnest empathy. If you see an opportunity to help a peer and make them better at their job, that opportunity shouldn’t be missed.

    One of the best phone calls I’ve ever had was with a sales rep I only worked with a few times. The day after a trip to New York to work with a customer he called me up. The meeting was a win and we were movign forward. But he took time out of his day to offer me some well thought out feedback on things in the meeting that I could have done differently that could have moved us further. Leaving things on the table in sales is never a good thing.

    That call is one of my most cherished memories in my work career.

    If you touch a sensitive subject, acknowledge it. Don’t be accusatory or lay blame. None of that is constructive. This is about improvement, not venting or creating conflict.

  • Offer coaching or mentorship

    Many times I notice things in other people because they’re things that I’m succeptible to myself and I’ve worked to improve them. Sharing that experience with your peers has value. I don’t think it can be said better than Leo from The West Wing talking to his co-worker/mentee Josh after some awful stuff happened.

  • Work through management

    Sometimes you know feedback is sensitive. Ethics or even legality could come into play. A lack of knowledge can lead to some really unexpected conclusions. If you’re not comfortable approaching someone for $REASONS, then reach out to their manager. The same rules apply. You’re initiating this session to to help a peer improve themselves a little. Don’t ever forget that.

I’ve also seen a few different ways to solicit honest feedback.

Ways to receive constructive feedback

  • Be blunt

    Your goal is to improve. If you have any suspicion that someone could help you improve how you do something, then ask them for it. Be honest and blunt about why your asking, and give them as much information you can about what you’re looking for.

    These conversations aren’t natural to most of us. Building out as much as a framework as you can helps them be more productive for everyone. I’ve never done this when someone didn’t appreciate the effort.

  • Offer it to everyone with no consequences

    One of the coolest feedback mechanisms I’ve ever seen come from Joe Beda. Joe helped invent Kubernetes while working at Google. I had the good fortune to work with him while at VMWare. In his email signature he has a link to an anonymous Google Form where anyone with the link can offer feedback on him.

    To me, that’s amazing.

    I hope to be brave enough to do that at some point in 2023.


Some people have the gift to understand themselves well enough that they know what they should be working on next to improve themselves. I’m not that fortunate. I love to get feedback on what I can improve on to help me align my personal development efforts. It’s a crtical step for me, personally.

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