Feedback doesn't have to be a b*tch

Emma Pryke
Emma Pryke 2 min

A wise woman (my sister) once said to me, ‘anyone can give you a piece of feedback, but it doesn’t mean you have to take it’. To give a little context - this conversation was off the back of a particularly fraught ‘check in’ session with a Manager I was just not aligning with at work. Looking back now, it’s clear that she was an accidental manager, falling into the position of running a 4-strong marketing team with no prior experience or in-house training. Rubbish for me, her and the company. 

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Back to the idea of feedback. It sounds simple - someone completes task and you tell them what you think.

Right? Well yeah in a way. But humans are sensitive beings. Putting forward an opinion or piece of work can feel personal, and to have a negative reaction can have a lasting impact. Adding a bit of well thought cushioning can make all the difference.

And if I had felt this way at work, I had a sneaking suspicion that others in the tyllr team might have had a similar experience over the years. I was right - here’s a few choice phrases that had been uttered by managers’ past and a note on how we’d suggest it was rephrased - avoiding potential conflict and disheartenment. 

Discussing someone’s behaviour

Giving honest feedback about a team member’s behaviour is always tricky as it can feel like a personal attack if not handled sensitively. We’d recommend using ‘I’ statements to diffuse the situation and always be as specific as possible. End with enquiring how you could help ensure this behaviour doesn't continue.

Before: "You were really aggressive and defensive in that last meeting."

After: "I found your communication quite difficult in that last meeting. You occurred to me as quite defensive. Is there anything going on for you that I should know about?"

How to keep cool under work pressure

There’s times when you’ve got the powers that be breathing down your neck, it’s causing stress and you need your team to put in the overtime. Before making a demand, think about how to phrase it so that it doesn’t cause resentment. Pizza also helps.

Before: “You need to go the extra mile”

After: “I know that you’re already stretched, but I need to ask a huge favour to work later this week”. I’ll be here too and will recognise your effort properly in due course. In the meantime, I’m buying pizza.”

How to keep cool under work pressure

Accusatory / aggresive feedback

Approaching someone with an accusatory or aggressive tone can elicit either a fearful or a defensive response. It’s best to approach difficult situations with a open and inquisitive question to give space for reflection and peaceful resolution.

Before: “Why does this keep happening?!”

After: “What seems to be happening in this situation which keeps this thing recurring?”

Accusatory / aggresive feedback

Not quite hitting the brief

Although it can be hard under pressure, we’d recommend steering clear of emotive reactions and instead, taking a breath and reframing your thoughts into neutral language.

Before: “Well, that's a 2 out of 10!"

After: "It appears that maybe there's been a misunderstanding around my brief. Could we spend some time reviewing it again together so we can get to a shared agreement of what some of the outcomes could look like?”

Constructive feedback:

When giving feedback, it’s helpful to be explicitly constructive - including as much detail as possible to avoid confusion. And always buffer the feedback with a positive comment.



That newsletter was a bit long-winded but fine to send out.


The newsletter looked great. I loved the part about galloping wilderbeasts - it took me back to my travels! I did feel like the introduction was a little long, would you be able to shorten it to under 50 words and then I think we’re good to go - thanks for doing an awesome job!

Key Takeaway

Feedback should be delivered thoughtfully to avoid lasting negative impacts. Use "I" statements for behaviour discussions to express personal reactions and explore underlying issues. Show empathy when managing work pressure by recognizing stress and offering support. Avoid accusatory tones by asking open questions. Clarify expectations with neutral language. Provide constructive feedback with detail and positivity.

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