The Feedback Dilemma: Offering and Receiving It Like a Professional

5 mins read

Most probably you’ve already encountered multiple types of feedback, positive or negative, in various forms and given or received by different people.


Definition and How Can We Use It

The textbook definition of feedback is that of a transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source. Simply put: evaluating a recipient’s behavior, event, or a process in order to correct it. Feedback should be offered objectively, with the sole purpose of letting the recipient know what was wrong and, most importantly, how to improve it. 

However, I feel that nowadays the word “feedback” is being overly used, especially to mask out subjective criticism that is anything but constructive. I’ve seen multiple such instances on social media, in friend groups and random conversations from strangers. 

Feedback such as: 

“Sarah, you’re one hour late to our brunch! Get your time management skills in place and stop wasting other people’s time!”, sounds hurtful, right? However, while the recipient might really have a bit of difficulties managing their time, the feedback provided might feel like an attack rather than an observation. 

Let’s switch things up and make it actually objective and helpful: 

“Sarah, it upsets me when you’re late to our brunches. I also had some errands to run today, and when you are late it delays my plan for the day. I would love if you could arrive on time next time, or let me know a couple of hours before if you think you’ll be late. This way, I could switch my to-do’s for the day and tick something off in that time. What do you think?” The message is similar, but the delivery is more objective and empathetic, and opens up a conversation about the subject. 

In both our personal and professional life, the feedback we offer should be helpful for the recipient, not only pointing fingers that they have a problem. It should be something from which the recipient can learn and think of a solution to fix the issue. 

So, even if there are plenty of articles on how to provide feedback, I’ve thought you’d like to know how we approach feedback here at Grapefruit.

Grapefruit and the constant feedback

In our last blog post, we talked about how we approach mistakes here at the company. More so, you might also know that mistakes are also part of each individual’s learning process. Acknowledging that, we incorporated acknowledging and understanding mistakes into our culture (it even became one of our principles). Now, every mistake can be either noticed by the person itself or by a colleague of his, which mean the person who made the mistake will find out about it through feedback.

There are plenty of frameworks and methods of providing feedback. From the most-known sandwich technique to ones that have an abbreviation in their names. Let’s go briefly through each method to better understand and identify them. 

The Sandwich Method: Its name comes from the structure of the given feedback. The top slice of toast – an initial positive note; the meat – a kind and constructive remark; the bottom piece of toast – a final word confirming that your colleague has done an excellent job. 

Unfortunately, this method attracted more cons rather than pros throughout time. Some of these cons include: 

  • It can be confusing to the recipient;
  • The word “but” can instantly compromise the positive message said before;
  • Constructive feedback shouldn’t be taken as a compliment, but as feedback.


The SBI Method (Situation – Behavior – Impact): This model is used to provide both constructive & positive feedback. It’s measured as being incredibly helpful when it comes to clarifying a situation, describing a particular behavior, and explaining the resulting impact. 

The Pendleton Feedback Model: This model encourages the recipient of the feedback to become an active participant. The purpose of it is challenging self-reflection during the process. Here are the steps required in this model:

  1. Making sure the employee is ready for the feedback;
  2. The employee offers his opinion on the observed situation/behavior. 
  3. The employee identifies what went well.
  4. The manager shares his opinion on what went well
  5. The employee mentions the required improvements.
  6. The manager says which things can be improved.
  7. Both of them agree on a plan that will ensure the mentioned improvement.


The IDEA Feedback Method: IDEA is an abbreviation from: Identify – Describe – Encourage – Action. To summarize it: you’re identifying a specific behavior that needs to be changed, you describe it to the recipient, encourage and show the recipient that you’re not there to judge but to help, and establish the next steps in order for the behavior to be corrected.

Receiving feedback and appropriate reaction

Now we’ve discussed how we can offer feedback and described a few well-known methods to take into consideration when you find yourself needing to give feedback. However, it takes two to tango. There are two parts when it comes to having an effective feedback session. On one side, the source of feedback needs to make sure that the message is objective and comprehensible. On the other side, the receiver needs to see the message as an opportunity for growth and avoid getting defensive

So, how can we receive feedback, and what’s a good way of receiving it? First, as mentioned before, if you are more in touch with your emotional side, identify when you might become defensive and try to control it. If you’re offering the energy of an approachable attitude, people might come to you naturally to offer feedback and even help you out. If you tend to become defensive, justifying or making excuses, you’ll be making the feedback provider uncomfortable when it’ll come to this subject. 

Practice active listening – that means not interrupting! While it’s easy to mimic listening, it’s important to truly  understand the information you’re being provided with. Feedback is actually a great tool to avoid hitting a plateau. Listen to the message you’re being given, and if you know you might take things personally, make sure to ask questions or ask for examples to better identify exactly what the other person is saying. 

Reflect and decide what are the next steps. Usually, this is done together with the person who’s providing you the feedback. However, there are some instances where you might have to do that on your own. So, take a moment to reflect on what has been said, the answers you’ve received for your questions and the examples you’ve been given. Try to make a list of a few next (measurable) steps to ensure your improvement. 

Remember: feedback isn’t a personal attack, it’s purely a method to evaluate a behavior. Its main goal is improving the discussed issues in order for you to become a better professional.

dedicated teams for startups

Let’s play a game!

Recently I’ve watched Brené Brown’s series called “Atlas of the Heart” and in the last episode, there have been some role-playing scenes to better understand the differences between sympathy and empathy (I highly recommend watching this series!!).  So I thought, why not try to do the same for the subject of feedback? This way, we can better understand the difference between receiving and rejecting feedback.

Let’s start with a context: Your name is Robert, and you’ve had to attend a very important offline pitch presentation at 9:00 AM. But you have a tendency of incorrectly estimating the time it takes for you to arrive at the destination, so you are 45 minutes late.

Upon arriving back to the office, your manager (we’ll call him Steve) asks you to come into his office to discuss today’s meeting, letting you know that it’s going to be a short feedback session.

Now, let’s see which one of the below answers is objective feedback:

  1. “I can’t believe you were late again! Do you realize we might lose this pitch because of you?! Are you ever going to be on time to anything?!”
  2. “Robert, you could’ve been late any other time, but not today. I’m disappointed in you. Please don’t do that again.”
  3. “Robert, when you are late to meetings, it makes other people, myself included, to doubt your professionalism. Please, try to find a way to arrive on time on meetings in order to avoid such situations in the future. Try to leave 30 minutes earlier than your initial estimation, and let’s start from there. What do you say?”

A and B didn’t feel quite right, did it? That’s because you can sense the anger of the manager and the inability to step away from the issue and offer the feedback from a watcher’s perspective. So why is C the correct answer? The information is presented without anger or powerful emotions, it describes the behavior to be corrected, and the consequences it has on people and situations. Moreover, it’s followed by a piece of advice or a solution, ultimately asking the other person’s opinion over the proposal.  

Now, let’s see what’s Robert’s response to the correct feedback (C) and which answer is the appropriate one. 

  1. Not saying anything and just nodding with arms crossed. 
  2. “How come you never tell Eve that?! She’s always late, and no one bats an eye when she arrives 1 hour later to the office! I think you have a personal problem with me.”
  3. “I said I’m sorry. I can’t go back in time.”
  4. “But it went well without me anyway!” 
  5. “I apologize for being late today. I will test the solution you’ve given me and try to find the sweet spot for me. Is it ok if we’ll schedule another follow-up meeting to this feedback session to go over the progress?”

Being silent, blaming others, minimizing the problem or finding a bright side isn’t the right way to respond to feedback. 

Answer A feels as if you’re not actively listening and just mimic the nodding, while sitting with your arms crossed indicates defensiveness. 

Answer B is blaming the fault on others and letting your emotions get the best of you. Eve wasn’t mentioned, and it isn’t about her, while the “personal problem” part is a bias caused by your strong emotions. 

Answer C is a little pointless there. It is obvious you can’t go back in time, and you’re not acknowledging the bigger issue there. Saying you’re sorry you’re late but not addressing that you’re at least going to try to fix the problem doesn’t do it. Remember the crumpled piece of paper example? 

Answer D is irrelevant because while maybe it did go well without you, that wasn’t Steve’s point. It wasn’t so much about the meeting, but about you. While the meeting has passed, your behavior didn’t, and you can be late next time as well. 

The right answer is E. Why? Because you do apologize for the situation, which is the polite thing to do, you’re letting Steve know that you’ll try to correct that behavior and even (as a bonus) propose a follow-up meeting in order to check in with your progress. 

This was fun, wasn’t it? Now that we’re approaching the end of this article, I’d like you to remember a few things:

  • Feedback is an objective evaluation of your behavior, a product, or a service, not a personal attack, not a tool to shame you.
  • When offering feedback, describe the situation from a Watcher’s perspective rather than a victim.
  • When receiving feedback, ask questions, request examples, clarify anything you didn’t understand and make sure to take action. 
  • When receiving feedback, you need to have an opening to the other person’s perspective, blaming, diminishing, silence or childishness represent rejection and defensiveness. Do not let your emotions get the best of you, we’re all human, and we’re not perfect, however, feedback gives us a chance to improve and to avoid hitting a plateau.

Looking to join our team?


Contact us

Apply for a job



Work with us