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Give Equitable Feedback

Discover what equitable feedback is and how to use it to create an inclusive workspace.

Brief Summary

Bringing an awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues to the skill of giving and receiving feedback is critical to creating an inclusive workplace. Feedback provides certainty of performance, motivation towards goals, understanding of contribution to the workplace & co-responsibility between colleagues. Feedback has a strong impact on employee engagement that, in turn, increases employee retention and profitability by 21%.

Unfortunately, not all employees have equitable access to actionable feedback, notably women and racial minorities. This can lead to bias in opportunities and advancement.


One of the biggest barriers to giving honest critical feedback that can help an employee grow and improve, is managers’ fear that it will make the other person defensive or it will damage the relationship. This results in no feedback, biased feedback, or lower quality feedback that can limit the opportunity to develop and advance.

Studies prove that professionals of color receive less constructive feedback than their white colleagues & women get less actionable feedback than men. One study found criticism of style came up in 61% of women’s performance reviews and just 1% of men’s.


Acknowledge power dynamics: the person with less power, authority, rank or privilege is likely to feel a heightened risk in the conversation. By promoting a growth mindset, managers can lay a foundation of psychological safety. Removing the fear of risk can lead to candid conversations and clear the way for bi-directional constructive feedback.

Reduce bias through greater awareness of biases (tightrope bias, prove it again bias, confirmation bias, affinity bias). Seek feedback from multiple raters (when only one person rates another, “62% of the variance in the ratings could be accounted for by the individual raters’ peculiarities of perception, and only 21% of the actual performance of the individual being rated.)

Consider the system & context. Failure to see systemic causes may lead us to place too much responsibility/blame on an individual or give too much credit to someone's success.

dei progress

Proposed Actions

  • Start at the top. Building a feedback culture can’t happen without leadership modeling how to give and receive feedback.
  • Develop cultural intelligence. How direct is the communication in this cultural setting? How tight are the norms? How important is saving face?
  • Show appreciation. Research indicates that the highest performing teams have a ratio of approximately 5:1 praise to criticism.
  • When giving feedback, be specific; focus on actions, impact, and how to change - not on personality.
  • When receiving feedback, manage your reaction & defensiveness, thank the giver & seek to learn from the feedback.

Valued Guidance

Implementation Plan

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