Thought Of The Week: Feedback Phobia

April 8th, 2014

Thought Of The Week: Feedback Phobia

Here is one graph from the Harvard Business Review, which you should tape to your desk!

Organisations are always striving to improve the quality of feedback that they give their employees as well as how they deliver it. Intuitively, we know that the more effective this process, the better employees know what is expected of them as well as knowing how they are performing. Ultimately it makes staff become more effective at their jobs and happier.

You would think that after years of performance management systems and related training that this would be old news by now and those feedback problems would have been solved - so what is the block?

I believe that there are a number of contributing factors. Factors that consist of;

Skills: are you able to deliver feedback effectively?
Courage: can you get yourself to do things. which can often be uncomfortable?
Emotional intelligence: can you get the pitch and style of the feedback right to suit the complex situational and social/emotional context?

We are groomed during our social development (or at least most of us are!) to get along and to 'play nicely'. That social conditioning (for some) is a barrier, simply because what needs to be said is not easy to say and the tougher the feedback the easier it is to put it off until another day.

At the other end of the spectrum are the self-confessed, "I tell it as it is" straight shooters who assume that giving someone 'both barrels' is the best approach. Quite often it is their only approach and typically the outcome is not a good one. I guess this is probably why we see a rise in bullying and harassment claims.

The HBR article 'Overcoming Feedback Phobia: Take the First Step' that I read recently, tells us what we already know but that it highlights the need for 'engagement', which I feel sure is essential and is a hugely significant ingredient for all organisations when giving feedback to their staff.

In order to create effective programmes, which improve the quality of feedback, they need to work with a target audience, which has divergent needs in terms of skill, emotional intelligence and willingness to tackle something, which may be uncomfortable. If it doesn't then you are likely to be wondering why you don't get much bang for your buck.

Simon Wiltshire

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