Faint-Hearted Over Feedback? Here’s Why.
Almost any manager who conducts reviews or has to give employee feedback, especially negative feedback, dreads it worse than most any other aspect of management…and with good reason. Feedback is serious business. An article by Kenneth M. Nowack indicates that more positive than negative feedback in one’s life can increase longevity. As follows, the opposite is true. Too much negative feedback can shorten the lifespan. Now you may feel fainter than ever at the thought of giving feedback. Unfortunately, managers are not hired to only provide positive feedback.
One way to lessen the faint feeling is to train supervisors how to give feedback. While not providing feedback is not an option, many organizations use assessments, to determine how the employee likes and does not like to be communicated with in the first place. Reading about ideas on how to give feedback helps as well. For example, Mr. Nowack suggests a technique called Feedforward created by Marshall Goldsmith. Feedforward works like this when offering feedback: “Next time you are in a staff meeting, you can be even more effective in getting everyone to participate by directly asking for the opinion of others.” Such feedback helps reduce defensive reactions and increases likely receptivity.
In a recent article by Dori Meinert, Senior Writer for HR Magazine, she supports the idea that feedback “creates as much anxiety for the giver or the receiver.” The article cites advice from a book entitled Thanks for the Feedback by Sheila Heen a consultant. Ms. Heen suggests that the onus is on the receiver to be “in control of what they take in and whether they decide to do anything about it.”
The article goes on to discuss how establishing a feedback culture in an organization can lead “to higher job satisfaction, greater creativity, faster adaptation in a new role and lower turnover.” In addition, several good ideas are given on what can trigger our inability to learn to accept feedback. However, there is a catch.
A recent study entitled: The Supervisor Feedback Environment is empowering, but not all the time: Feedback Orientation as a Critical Moderator, suggests that feedback is better accepted if the individual is favorably oriented to receiving feedback, but not so much for those of the opposite persuasion. In fact, there is a danger for those who are not so oriented to damage the individual’s efforts at performance with feedback. The study measured elemets such as meaning, competency, self-determination, and empowerment. Of course, when dealing with the human element, there are a myriad of perspectives, ideas, opinions, thought processes, etc., etc., etc. So how does a manager determine who needs or wants feedback and the best way to deliver that feedback?
It is impossible for managers to be psychologists or have the time to ferret out each employee’s feelings about feedback. Yet, one size does not fit all in this faint inducing task. According to Ms. Meinert and the study, just having a culture of feedback can help. Here is what the study suggests: “Although tailoring a feedback system to each individual employee may be impractical, our results suggest that gauging the feedback orientation of an organization’s employees may help managers more generally identify the feedback environment that will serve the needs of most employees within the organization. Specifically, if the majority of employees are high on feedback orientation, a strong feedback environment from the supervisor would be highly valuable.” Bear in mind, if your organization does not entertain such a culture currently, it will take time to change. The good news is that the study suggests that encouraging feedback during times of change help move the change along and move it along in a healthy in a healthier manner.
With a little effort feedback doesn’t have to make you feel faint-hearted. Further, it is easy to see how creating a feedback culture can make the job of a manager easier and empower employees.