With all the ways we communicate (Email! Slack! Zoom!) in our hybrid work world, it can feel hard to turn conversations and ideas into action, and feedback is a huge part of that. We’ve pulled together this handy guide to help you get better and giving and receiving feedback.
They say feedback is a gift. And just like any gift, feedback needs to be tailored to the occasion and the relationship if it’s to be met with open arms. How collaborative is the team culture? How urgent is feedback for the project? What time zone is your teammate in? Without a thoughtful approach to giving and receiving—even with the best intentions—your feedback can end up chucked in the trash, straining working relationships, and spiraling projects into an endless back-and-forth. Fortunately, we’ve assembled Figma’s feedback gift guide to help you give feedback that makes your team’s best-of list.
Knowing when to give great feedback is as important as what to give
For every gift there is a season, and good feedback is as much about when as what. Companies, design teams, projects, and (most importantly!) people all have unique constraints and timelines. It’s important to deliver feedback when it can be most constructive and well-received.
It can be hard not to declare a direction a definite "no" or jump to color choices for early concepts—our brains love to fill in the gaps! But design is a process for a reason. Thinking about the intent behind each step in a project will help you make better communication decisions along the way.
When soliciting input at any of these stages, you can provide focus and set expectations by outlining the kind of feedback that would be most helpful to receive.
Try these six critique methods from the Figma design team’s tool belt.
Many teams are embracing a more open, collaborative process, but culture isn’t built in a day! “It can take a multi-year cultural shift to move a whole company’s mindset into one that is grounded in collaboration first vs. solo contribution,” says Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Design & Research, Jon Friedman. It’s important to understand where your company is on its journey, and meet your teammates where they are today. For example, if you’re part of a highly collaborative culture, the company may promote sharing work across teams and encourage public Slack channels for open discussions.
Read our full report on what makes collaboration click.
No one likes getting pinged at 5:30 am about a new idea for a collaborative project. Your teammates may be working different hours than you or have personal preferences for timing. Be respectful of everyone’s time and energy, and make sure you’re up to speed on the team’s schedules. And don’t forget to set expectations about your own working style! A little communication and accommodation can go a long way.
Learn how design leaders think about coordinating feedback and alignment across multiple time zones.
Finding an appropriate setting and channel is key
You wouldn’t send a party invite to your family over Slack, or ask your partner in the next room about dinner over email. Feedback in the workplace demands attention to context and customs, too. Establish processes that work for how and where your team works, and continue adapting to keep everyone in the loop.
In a world saturated with social networks, the line between public and private can get blurry. But when it comes to feedback, understanding group dynamics can transform a silent room into a zesty and fruitful discourse. Consider who and how many people you want feedback from and choose the surface that best supports the group.
It can be tempting to funnel all feedback through asynchronous channels like email when your teammates are all on different schedules. But we’re social creatures, and sometimes real-time communication can’t be beat for efficiency and relationship-building. Just remember to send sensitive feedback through real-time private channels to prevent misunderstandings or unnecessary embarrassment.
One important step towards helping your team get comfortable with feedback is choosing tools that accommodate cross-functional participation. Breezy features like FigJam’s “cursor chats, emojis, and stickers are all ways that people can express themselves more naturally,” says our Chief Product Officer, Yuhki Yamashita. But it still takes some mental energy for a team to adopt any new tool, even one that may be a perfect match. If you’re an expert in a specialized tool, walking your peers through its features can get everyone on the same page before the crunch of feedback time. That little extra effort early on will save a bundle later.
Hear Google’s Jennifer Daniel on how digital primitives can help teams communicate across boundaries.
Packaging your feedback with care will help you get the message across
It’s not just the thought that counts with gifts—you can’t carefully curate and beautifully wrap an intention—and the same goes for feedback! Both givers and receivers should consider what type of feedback will be productive for the moment, and frame any requests and deliveries accordingly.
While we may always enjoy hearing what our teammates have to say, not all feedback is helpful. When you’re asking for feedback, it’s also your responsibility to be honest with yourself about what you need to move a project to the next step. Even wanting a nudge of encouragement to feel more confident in the work is just fine—as long as you understand the purpose of the feedback you’re requesting. Choose from this starter list, or add your own:
Sometimes even stating what you don’t want to hear can help set guardrails for your teammates and ensure a comfortable exchange.
Try sharing rough work for early feedback to keep your creativity flowing.
Despite all the recent advances in technology, our teammates still can’t read our minds! So it’s not enough to know what you want; you have to tell the team, too. To frame everyone’s expectations for the type of feedback you’re soliciting, make the ask clear and choose a communication channel that matches what you need. For instance, if you want to generate new ideas, organize a real-time team meeting to set the stage for discussion. Whereas, if you’re looking for a quick thumbs up, a link in Slack or over email with an explicit request for approval will serve the occasion better. And always keep in mind the roles involved! An executive-level stakeholder, for example, will need more context—and may require a more formal request—than a close teammate.
Learn how to ask for feedback that supports iteration.
Remember that the best gift is the one they’ve put on their list. If a teammate asks for a specific type of feedback, trust that there’s a reason and try to tailor your thoughts to the request. Of course, there are times when we want to give above and beyond the occasion. If you have additional feedback that you think a teammate needs to hear, be as respectful as you can when offering it. Not everyone is comfortable with surprises—even if the gift ends up being a game-changer!
We hope these gift-giving guidelines help you steer your products towards launch, and your teams towards collaboration nirvana. But remember that every company, team, and individual is different! Chocolate may be the most traditional gift for that February holiday, but if your partner is lactose intolerant, that’s not going to work out for anyone. Collaborating well takes practice and reflection from everyone on the team. And building a culture of great feedback requires improvisation and personalization. The right feedback, through the right tools, at the right moment can help us all get exactly what we need.