Should Feedback Hurt?

Last week I wrote a post:

I made a mistake. A BIG one. No one told me. So, I kept making it.

Until, one day, a colleague sat me down & told me what everyone else knew. It was horrible. I was shocked & embarrassed. Surely, SHE was the one who was mistaken?

Once I had time to get used to things however, I realised:

  1. At least I could fix things
  2. I wish someone had told me sooner
  3. It must have been very difficult for my colleague to tell me

Actually, the last point was what really struck me. What my colleague did for me took courage. She didn’t have to have the conversation. She did it because she cared about me.

That’s doesn’t mean you should agree with every piece of feedback. A lot of the time, people think they know what is right, but they can only give you THEIR perspective.

Only YOU know what’s right for YOU.

But someone who shows an intention to put YOUR success & well-being above their OWN comfort, well, that person should be treated like gold.

  • “It takes humility to seek feedback” Stephen Covey

ESPECIALLY if you are in authority, STOP. When someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, don’t shoot that person down. Don’t shut them up. Don’t blame them for the situation. Thank them for their generosity.

That the beginning of a great culture.

In fact, this is such an important point that in his best selling book, Principles, multi-billionaire investor, Ray Dalio’s make it his number 1 principle.

  • “Create an environment in which everyone has the right to understand what makes sense and no one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it,” Ray Dalio

Likewise, Bill Gates, owner of most of the world, chose to devote an entire Ted talk to the topic of what else? “Teachers Need Real Feedback”.

There are many ways to create an environment where people feel safe giving and receiving feedback. A few top tips include:

  • Feel first – if the message hurts, take time to calm down before you do or say anything. Let is settle


  • Notice the nice – if someone has made themselves uncomfortable for you, notice what they are trying to do for you and tell them.


  • Go for Growth – after the information has settled, work out how it has helped you. Where would you be without the feedback? This helps put the discomfort into perspective.

If hearing the hard stuff is hard, it’s MEANT to me. We ALL struggle with it. Don’t assume that the struggle makes it negative. Sometimes, the struggle is a sign it matters more. If it was hard for you, then check in. If the feedback is genuine, chances are, it was hard for the other person too.


Do you need an experienced facilitator for your next offsite to lead a courageous conversation? Email me at

Justine works with leaders in Complex Environments. *Geographically spread stakeholders *Limited direct authority *Engagement challenges.

Justine GETS IT. She spent the better part of a decade embedding People & Culture for up to 35,000 people across 640 locations in a Fortune 500 Company. Justine has
coached, trained and presented to thousands of people. She has practiced (quite
well) as an employment lawyer. Justine has been accepted as Fellow of the Aust
HR Institute – placing her in the top HR professionals in Australia,

She has LIVED brilliant and bullying coworkers, career politics, toxic leaders & truly
transformational cultures. It comes down to this: choose courage. That’s the start of every action that matters. Because your productivity & profitability cannot exceed the capability of your people.

Oh yes, most of the time, she’s quite nice too.


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