Feedback We Crave: Getting It, Using It


Recently, Canadian Olympic athletes were surveyed about the best ways for spectators to cheer them on to a gold medal standing in Sochi.

Fully three-quarters of them said that “hearing their fans cheering and shouting” and  seeing them “waving encouraging signs of support” is highly motivational.

Feedback matters, to athletes, to all of us.

Nike gets that, which is why they are riding the wearable wave with connected fitness bracelets that deliver activity feedback to runners. gets it too, as they share data from Kindle devices with authors to provide feedback on how many readers made it to the last page of their latest publication, how many bailed by chapter three and which lines were tweeted.

Sometimes feedback isn’t easy to come by. Especially for Gen Y, a cohort accustomed to the instantaneity of social media feedback loops, it can be frustrating when your work performance isn’t evaluated. If feedback expectations are unmet, employees are likely to feel unmotivated, isolated, and are more apt to jump ship.

Thanks anyway: ignoring the wrong feedback

At other times we get feedback but fail to act on it.

This is especially common if the feedback feels like it’s the wrong kind.

Forget about calling Gen Y the “me” generation. Regular feedback and evaluation are key to employee growth – and retention.

For example, we’re unlikely to take feedback to heart when it seems contradictory. Likewise for many, praise and recognition, while nice to hear, are not what we most crave at work.

It turns out that 6 out of 10 people prefer corrective feedback (such as suggestions for improvement) over positive feedback (such as congratulatory comments ), according to Harvard Business Review.

Key attributes of efficient and usable feedback are frequency, clarity, and specificity, observes Jay Gilbert in The University of Western Ontario’s Ivy Business Journal. But it takes time, and a lot of it, to provide that kind of personalized feedback.

As employers seek to create a culture of feedback and collaboration, more are adopting enterprise software systems to socialize employee reviews.

Helping staff get 360-degree peer-to-peer feedback – not once a year but continuously – is the idea.

It makes good business sense, because research shows that regular, low-stakes assessment is highly effective. That’s because it allows the receiver to make incremental improvements and small adjustments. They are then less likely to become immobilized, defeated, and overwhelmed by a deluge of decontextualized feedback in an annual assessment.

Social feedback

If you feel the need for more feedback on your creative work and ideas, turn to the social web.

A bit of web sleuthing is almost guaranteed to uncover a niche community where you can engage in commentary, ask questions, and practice social reciprocity by giving feedback while also receiving it. Some examples:

Graphic designers and photographers

From feedback to funding, crowdsourcing can help.

Look to the Behance network or DeviantArt (both have free/paid options) to showcase and discover design work and submit your creative work for critique by a global community. If you’re a photographer, Flickr or 1x  (free/paid) communities are good bets to receive professional feedback. All of these sites also do double duty by hosting online creative portfolios for a fee.

Writers and editors

Want feedback on your writing? Beyond fanfiction sites, visit ABCTales (free) or CritiqueCircle (paid), two large active communities where published and aspiring authors can share, discuss and develop their work.


If you have a new project or business idea and want to test it out and get some feedback, try Quora for general questions, and Kickstarter for both community feedback and funding support.

Fashion designers and stylists

For fashionistas, try LookBook and Polyvore to get community feedback from other (established as well as up-and-coming) stylists, models, and designers.

And as a bonus, by becoming involved in a feedback community, online or off, you’ll also expand your professional networks –  and don’t forget that volunteering is another way to garner feedback while giving back.

Don’t be surprised if a quest for feedback ends up inspiring your next great idea and uncovers some collaborators to help make it happen.

This article is excerpted from my professional development course in personal branding with social media, offered online at Queen’s University.