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Guidance on Feedback

Types of Feedback

At GitLab, as part of the written performance feedback, we will be using 360 Feedback. Please go to the 360 Feedback page to read about that process.

Performance Feedback should also be given at the 1-1s and you can find details about that by going to the 1-1 page.

Additionally there is 365 feedback. Feedback should be given 365 days a year and largely it’s done verbally and directly; not escalated. More than just for feedback, these concepts are used in any difficult conversation.

Feedback can feel a little bit like this


Importance of Feedback

Fear and Holding Back

Giving feedback can be a scary process which makes it hard to do. This is because there are fears of damaging the relationship, being wrong, losing face or hurting the person. Holding back on providing feedback because you feel it isn't your place (if you are a peer) or believing it won't make a difference are also some reasons why we hold back.

The consequences of holding back can have a significant impact to GitLab's culture. Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (2002) cites the following five consequences:

Elements of Getting it Right

Feedback Image

Radical Candor™

"Radical Candor™ just means Care Personally AND Challenge Directly. Why does something so simple feel radical?" Source. There is a video here from Kim Malone Scott titled Radical Candor-The Surprising Secret to being a good Boss which explains this crucial element of getting feedback right.

What comes first, Honesty or Trust?

For many, it is more comfortable to give feedback to, and receive feedback from, those with whom you have already established trust. Somehow, the trust makes it easier to assume good intent and to be boldly honest with each other. Often, however, we need to provide feedback benefiting from trust before that trust has been earned.

Preparing to Give Candid Feedback


Cross-Cultural Feedback Considerations

GitLab has team members from many different cultures and backgrounds. Everyone responds to things differently. You may need to adapt your tone and style according to the individual and the relationship you have with them. Some things to think about are:

Receiving Feedback

  1. Assume positive intent
    • This is likely uncomfortable for the feedback giver as well
  2. Be an active listener
    • This is hard because our brains want us to run away
    • Slow down and really take the time to listen to what the other person is saying so you can reflect on it
  3. Be respectful
    • Give them your full attention
  4. Ask questions
    • It’s okay to take time to reflect on it and then come back with questions at a later time
  5. Show appreciation
    • Say thank you and mean it
  6. Reflect on the feedback
    • Take time to reflect on what you have heard and then think about the action
    • Pitfall: Over-engineering or overdoing the response
  7. Make a decision
    • What are the most impactful actions you can take - prioritize
    • Who has what responsibility in follow up (i.e. giver/receiver)? Both.

Live Learning Session on Receiving Feedback

On 2020-02-25 we held three Live Learning sessions to cover how to receive feedback effectively using the guidelines above. This recording is from the first session and includes content as well as a Q&A portion. The content follows along with these slides, and the Q&A follows along with this agenda.

Hard Conversations

It is inevitable that at some point difficult feedback will need to be given. This type of feedback is actually extremely valuable if delivered correctly. Another important factor is to consider the individual and be prepared for how they might react. You may receive one or a combination of the following responses:

The last point is what we want everyone to be able to do. The best way to ensure you deliver feedback is to be prepared. You can do this by asking yourself some questions beforehand. These will help you to balance heart and mind, such as:

Further Information

Helpful Tools