We need to talk about feedback. There is a chronic shortage of it. We all know this because we’re not giving enough feedback and when we do, we do it in a clumsy awkward manner that has unintended consequences.
We have become afraid of giving feedback and this is how we justify our reluctance:
- Excuse # 1 – people do not want feedback
- Excuse # 2 – people get offended when I give them feedback
- Excuse # 3 – people will probably make bullying and harassment claims when I give them feedback
- Excuse # 4 – I don’t have time
I hear these excuses every week and when I delve a little deeper I find that the person who needs feedback is usually someone who has been underperforming or not meeting expectations for many, many years and hasn’t received feedback the entire time. (Astonishingly, one bloke I met recently hasn’t spoken to his supervisor in five years!) The impact of this feedback drought on our organisations and our people is significant. None of these excuses are good enough and we have to break the drought.
It’s no secret that I’m a passionate advocate for giving feedback and treating it as a serious part of your professional practice. The reality is that people want feedback from their managers and Millennials want more feedback than other generations. You know what else? People need feedback to help them change, grow, and develop and withholding it, or diluting it, will not serve their interests or yours.
I think these are the real reasons we’ve not giving proper, thoughtful and courageous feedback:
- Reality # 1 – you don’t like conflict; you actively avoid it
- Reality # 2 – you are not good at giving feedback; you are still using the outdated ‘sandwich approach’, you expect people to infer your feedback from glimpses, you give people the silent treatment, or you take away their delegations or punish them in some other way
- Reality # 3 – you are not managing your emotions; you feel intimidated by your employees response
- Reality # 4 – you lack support to learn how to give feedback
Positive outcomes can only be achieved when the right systems and processes are place. On the other hand, a reckless approach can lead to trauma, and may even have lifelong consequences. In this sense, good feedback practice is like surgery: here’s the procedure:
Be clear and adopt a growth mindset
Like surgeons and medical professions act in the best interests of your staff and be clear about your intent when you give feedback.
Do not treat feedback interactions like emergency life or death situations (think command and control). If it’s really big and staff aren’t used to receiving feedback or you giving feedback, let them know what’s going to happen, when, how and why. Otherwise, develop a culture of giving feedback where regular conversations support growth and development.
Support recovery and growth post-feedback
Keep the conversations going!