HR & Personal Development

Feedback Matrix - Learn how to use feedback constructively

We all receive criticism, praise and somewhat constructive critique. But do you apply it or do you do as most people: Relish in the praise and ignore the critique?

We would like to teach you how to use the feedback you receive in a constructive way, so that it contributes to your self-knowledge and to your ability to reach your goals. The feedback matrix, which we walk you through here, can also be used in relation to your employees, to help them glean more from your feedback and use it constructively. A typical feedback situation most people know well, may sound something like this: The boss gives positive feedback on the assignment that the employee have solved really well, but she also expresses her concern over a deadline, which she feels should be shorter. The employee argues for his choice of deadline but accepts the negative feedback, and they agree on a solution.

The solution is found on account of the feedback that is given, but does this also mean that the feedback works? How can we know if the feedback we give actually works the way we want it to? When we receive feedback, two things usually happen:

  • We focus on the positive feedback and would like to reinforce it. It is our spotlight and we enjoy bathing in its beam.

  • We accept negative feedback, but we attempt to explain or justify it. Sometimes we decide that the person who gives the negative feedback is wrong and we reject the critique.

In both cases, the feedback usually won't have the desired effect. It takes a strong personal insight to absorb feedback and to work on it, instead of returning to work as if nothing happened.

The Feedback Matrix

The Feedback Matrix, which is illustrated below, is a helpful tool when you wish to examine what positive and negative feedback means to you, and how you can use it constructively. The matrix allows you to work with the comments you receive. It offers you insight on how to apply the feedback, to work your way towards your goals.

  POSITIVE NEGATIVE
EXPECTED
  • How can I celebrate that I am good at this?
  • How can I use this ability to become more productive or become more satisfied personally?
  • How can I use this ability to help others that may not be as strong in this area?
  • What am I already doing to overcome this concern?
  • Have I succeeded with this?
  • What other actions can I take in order to achieve the results or changes that I would like?
  • If I don't make these changes, how will it affect my work or my private life?
UNEXPECTED
  • Why was I surprised to hear this?
  • Did previous experiences make me forget about this ability or strength?
  • How can I celebrate this newly discovered ability?
  • How can I use this ability to improve my life?
  • Do I need more information for this feedback to make sense?
  • What sort of help do I require to able to handle the consequences?
  • What can I do here and now to ease the problem or reach a solution?
  • When I make improvements in this area, how will it affect other parts of my job?

Download The feedback matrix in a Word document:

Any feedback can nearly always be inserted in one of the categories in the matrix:

Positive/Expected – We often have an idea of what we are good at, because we receive regular positive feedback in those areas or on those tasks. When you have to be constructive based on this reoccurring feedback instead of not acting on it, you can ask yourself:

  • How can I celebrate that I am good at this?
  • How can I use this ability to become more productive or become more satisfied personally?
  • How can I use this ability to help others that may not be as strong in this area?

Negative/Expected – If we are completely honest, we often realize that there are areas where we could do better and where we receive negative feedback. But it can be quite difficult to improve in these areas without help. You can use the negative feedback constructively by asking yourself:

  • What am I already doing to overcome this concern?
  • Have I succeeded with this?
  • What other actions can I take in order to achieve the results or changes that I would like?
  • If I don't make these changes, how will it affect my work or my private life?

Positive/unexpected – when we receive unexpected positive feedback, it is like receiving a gift that we didn't anticipate. It is a pleasant sensation that someone have thought about us – we become happy and maybe even moved because of the nice gesture. The same applies to unexpected positive feedback. When the joy calms down and you wish to use the feedback constructively, ask yourself:

  • Why was I surprised to hear this?
  • Did previous experiences make me forget about this ability or strength?
  • How can I celebrate this newly discovered ability?
  • How can I use this ability to improve my life?

Negative/unexpected – This type of feedback is perhaps the most difficult to receive and comprehend. But it can also be the greatest source of self-knowledge, if we are open and able to use it. Unexpected feedback is often directed at aspects of ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge. We are perhaps not ready to face them and they provoke strong emotions. But once we learn how to handle them, we are able to go far, for instance by asking:

  • Do I need more information for this feedback to make sense?
  • What sort of help do I require to able to handle the consequences?
  • What can I do here and now to ease the problem or reach a solution?
  • When I make improvements in this area, how will it affect other parts of my job?

When we use feedback constructively, we work on our self-knowledge, and when we look at feedback as a step in the right direction towards our goal, we will make the most out of it.

The Feedback Matrix can help you get the most out of the feedback you receive. It challenges you to take advantage of the positive/expected, to work harder on the negative/expected, to celebrate the positive/unexpected and to dive into the negative/unexpected.