reply to feedback blog cover

We recently released a game-changing feature in Officevibe that allows managers to reply to feedback they receive.

The employee always remains anonymous, but now a manager can ask for more details while creating a safe place for employees to express themselves.

I thought it would be a good idea to look at some best practices around replying to the feedback that comes in.

The reply is so precious, it gives you so many opportunities, like:

  • Making the employee feel listened to
  • Getting more details to help you
  • Solving issues quickly
  • Making employees happy
  • Making employees part of the decision-making process

But if you make a mistake with the reply, it can have dramatically unintended consequences. An employee could become even angrier, or you could not get what you were looking for, making the whole process a waste of time.

Employees are also much less likely to give you feedback in the future.

The importance of the reply can’t be overstated. And as simple as it might seem, there are so many subtleties that can make all the difference.

As an example, have you ever heard of the negativity bias?

Our brains are wired to react more strongly to things we perceive as being negative. Even if it’s not actually negative, but we perceive it to be, we’ll react strongly to it.

When it comes to emails, or any text-based communication, we’re more likely to perceive them as negative because there’s no body language or tone of voice to help interpret.

This is why it’s even more important for you to use positive language in your replies. By default, we’re perceiving them as negative (even if they’re not), so you need to go the extra mile to make sure it’s positive.

For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll focus on the reply to feedback feature in Officevibe, but these tips can be applied any time you’re responding to employee feedback.

Questions About Replying

There are a couple of questions that you’ll likely have when you’re first introduced to the reply to feedback feature.

Let’s go through some of the common ones quickly.

  1. How long do I have to respond?There’s no hard rule like “you have to respond in 24 hours or else…” but obviously the sooner the better.

    Having said that, I would take some time (even 5 minutes) after reading the feedback before replying. It’s important to think a couple of things through, like:

    • What’s the context of this feedback?
    • Does this person have a valid point?
    • Is there anything I should have done differently to have avoided this feedback?

    Empathy is the key here.

  2. Do I have to respond to every piece of feedback?No, luckily you don’t. Some feedback won’t require a response, but sometimes even a simple thank you can go a long way.
  3. What happens when we have 200+ feedback in the system? It seems overwhelming!Yes, it can easily become overwhelming, but don’t worry, you’ll get to them eventually. You can also use Labels to organize things easier (more on this later).

Tips For Replying To Feedback

Here are a few things you need to understand before responding to feedback. These tips will help put you in the right state of mind for replying.

  1. Be Grateful That You Got Feedback

    The most important thing to keep in mind is that the feedback, no matter how harsh it might be, is meant to help you and the company improve.

    You should look at it as an opportunity, and be incredibly grateful that someone was willing to take time out of their day to make your job easier.

    If you approach the whole experience from an angle of gratitude, you’ll be much better off when replying.

  2. Wait A Few Minutes Before Replying

    Chances are, the first reaction of what to write back (especially if it’s negative feedback) won’t be the best thing to write.

    Take a few minutes after reading it to let it sink in and take time to reflect on it.

  3. Ask The Right Questions

    It’s important to take a step back and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. When you’re replying to feedback, you’re trying to dig deeper into the root of the problem.

    There are two types of questions you can use to discover what you’re looking for.

    1. Clarifying Questions simply clarify what the person was saying, like “Just to make sure, did you mean…” or “Did I understand correctly when you said…”
    2. Probing Questions are meant to make the person submitting the feedback think deeper about what they wrote, like “Why do you think this is the case?” Or “What do you think would happen if…”

Use Labels To Organize

One of the features that I find people aren’t using as well as they should are the labels.

It’s such a powerful feature that will make managing and organizing the feedback much better.

labels in officevibe

You can create your own labels based on whatever you feel is important, and use them to assign and prioritize all the feedback.

Then you can filter the feedback based on those labels to only see what’s relevant to you.

filter labels in officevibe

Trust me, this feature will make your life a whole lot easier.

Examples Of Feedback And Replies

As a quick refresher for how Officevibe collects this feedback, we ask contextual follow-up questions.

contextual questions in officevibe

The beauty of this is that our response rate and the quality of the answer are so high because it’s so contextual.

When replying to this feedback that you receive, you should keep two things in mind:

  1. Be (overly) positive
  2. Show empathy

As a simple example, look at the difference between these two pieces of text:

  • Hey how was your day
  • Hey! How was your day?

When we read each of the two in our head, we get the feeling that the second piece of text is being said in a much happier tone, just by changing the punctuation.

Another good reason to write with positivity is that people mirror our reactions, so they’ll reply with the same positivity to our message, helping to diffuse a negative situation.

In this next example, look at the difference between these two replies.

  • I don’t remember saying that. Let’s talk about it on Monday.
  • I apologize if I said anything that offended you, definitely not my intention! I honestly don’t even remember saying that, do you think we could chat about it on Monday? Have a nice weekend!

Again, the second response seems so much friendlier and inviting. While the first one is succinct and to the point, it’s important to show employees that you empathize and would never want to hurt them.

For these next few examples, I’ll use real questions that we ask in Officevibe, and show you some examples of feedback you might receive.

  • Question Asked: What could ACME do to help you grow even more in your career? (ex: training, mentorship, vision, autonomy, etc.)
  • Feedback Received: A new role
  • How To Respond: I think it’s great that you want to grow at our company. Maybe we can chat about it at our next one-on-one?
  • Question Asked: What could increase your satisfaction at ACME (clarity of expectations, resources, work environment)?
  • Feedback Received: I wish I had more flex time!
  • How To Respond: Sure! We’re happy to look into that, I’m just curious, are there specific days of the week that you want off?
  • Question Asked: How would you improve recognition and praising in general at ACME?
  • Feedback Received: I wish I got more recognition for some of the good things I’ve done outside of work.
  • How To Respond: That’s actually a great point! I agree with you fully. Just curious, how would you do that? Like a monthly recap type of thing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Question Asked: If you could change one thing about the way your manager(s) interact with you, what would it be and why?
  • Feedback Received: Include me more in the decision making process.
  • How To Respond: I had no idea that you felt that way, so thanks for bringing that up, at the next one-on-one that you have with your manager, bring that point up and if you can, give specific examples.
  • Question Asked: What do you think ACME could do to improve your happiness (either at work or home)?
  • Feedback Received: Nothing, it’s personal
  • How To Respond: No problem, I respect that. Always know that if you ever want to talk, I’m here to listen :)

Key Takeaways

  • Take your time with the reply, it’s more important than you think
  • Be grateful that someone took the time to give you feedback
  • Show empathy in your replies
  • Be positive in your replies, it’s hard to pick up on tone through text
  • Use labels to organize your feedback