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Overcoming a fear of feedback

This article forms part of a series focusing on giving and receiving feedback, one of the most effective tools to enable learning and growth in your people and organisation.

Why focus on feedback? Because feedback when done well, provides you with team members’ perspectives that can lead to ideas and opportunities for business growth, increases your chances of retaining the team members you want to keep, and provides team development that directly leads to greater performance and business outcomes.

Why the fear of feedback?

Yet, despite the benefits, leaders can still feel challenged by either receiving, or giving, feedback or both. They fear the worst. Common reasons for the hesitancy and fear of feedback include not wanting to hurt others’ feelings, expecting anger, tears or stonewalling, uncertainty on how to communicate the feedback, appearing underconfident or incompetent if they ask for feedback, not getting the clarity needed to make changes, and fear of what may be revealed.

These fears lead to unhelpful behaviours such as procrastination, denial, and avoidance.

Overcoming these fears is vital for today’s leaders more than ever as employees demand more of a voice in the workplace, greater clarity and input into their roles, more objective and specific recognition, and extensive developmental opportunities.  So, how can leaders and managers overcome this fear?   

Challenging fear of feedback

Like all things we fear and avoid, the only way to overcome them is to face them.

Challenging feedback calls on us changing our mindset. To do this, we must firstly overcome some of our negative beliefs about feedback.

Consider the following about feedback:

  • Feedback works best when it is TWO-WAY.
  • When leaders ask for feedback, they show they value their team members. They also role model how to receive and accept feedback and are setting a foundational piece for an open, constructive, and learning culture.
  • Team members are an incredible fountain for knowledge and ideas when leaders seek their feedback, providing opportunities for personal and business growth
  • Feedback includes PRAISE as well as criticism
  • Praise motivates, builds relationships, and shows others what success looks like
  • Avoiding feedback stagnates growth. Criticism, whilst maybe hard to give or take initially, is fundamental to learning and growth. It challenges everyone to reflect and change
  • Employees WANT feedback, and it is a critical reason why they leave when there is a lack of opportunities for it
  • Feedback works when it is direct, specific, and comes from a legitimate place of CARING for others
  • Leaders are neglecting one of their main responsibilities by avoiding feedback. It is the role of a leader to challenge their team members to grow and reach their potential
  • Giving and receiving feedback gets easier with PRACTICE


Whilst these counter-beliefs might start to challenge fear surrounding feedback, they doen’t necessarily arm us with the skills to effectively ask for, and give, feedback. So here are some tips to get you started. Like all soft skills, they involve emotional intelligence, observation, and practice, practice, practice.

10 tips on how to get better at feedback

  1. To begin, start by asking for feedback so others can see you are confident to be challenged. You will also role model ‘receiving feedback’ to your team members. Some example questions:
    • How could I have supported you better over the last month?
    • What is 1 thing I could do differently to support you better?
  2. Be curious, not furious! Encourage a constructive culture of openness, a sense of care, and helpfulness.
  3. Ask open questions. Give the team member an opportunity to self-reflect and not just answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Use language that feels natural to you. This will help you to introduce the feedback, for example:
    • How do you think that meeting went?
    • What did you notice about the response from the client?
  4. Be sure of your intentions. Ask yourself: Am I feeling annoyed, threatened or defensive and trying to get one back? What is my intent? Will this actually help the person develop? Am I coming from a place of care or hurt?
  5. Never criticise a person’s personality. This implies ‘they’ are wrong. Rather focus on the behaviours observed.
  6. Be specific with your feedback, whether praise or criticism. Set context (when), what was observed, outcomes, and how to move forward. Don’t be vague or try to down play the challenge required.
  7. Consider how the feedback will be received rather than how you want to say it. This will help you work out what to actually say.
  8. Practice what you will say.
  9. When your feedback is received by a team member angrily or hurtfully, don’t tone down the message if you have delivered the feedback using the above tips. Instead, dial up the compassion, acknowledging their emotions. Then ask them ‘What can I do right now that would be helpful for you?
  10. When you sense that the feedback has fallen on deaf ears, express the importance of the feedback and perhaps give another example to try and explain it further.

Most importantly, come from a place of caring and compassion. When an employee can see that you want the best for them, they will be more inclined to receive the feedback well.

Embracing feedback in your business

The art of giving and receiving regular, constructive feedback effectively is a skill that does not come easily to people, but when mastered, has the potential to truly transform your business, and have everyone working together to make themselves and your business greater.

Knowing how to ask for feedback proactively, as well as how to comfortably convey unambiguous feedback requires knowledge to build skills and strong frameworks to support leaders and team members to maximise their competency in this area.

The team at Balanced Scoreboard have tried and tested methods for enhancing team engagement, performance and job satisfaction through feedback to build business outcomes. Our structured framework for recognising, retaining and rewarding team members will help you to transform your good team into a great team and keep the people you want.

For further information, go to and view or book a demonstration of the Balanced Scoreboard itself – an effective team performance HR tool. Balanced Scoreboard is not a gimmick: it is a complete team-management system that works for you year-round.