Feedback Power: It’s Not About How You Give, But How Well They Get

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Jun 18, 2012

I’ve been getting a little twitchy lately about a few things. And most of them come back to a general conclusion that we seem to have lost all common sense when it comes to how we treat each other at work.

One thing in particular has been really getting to me lately and it’s all of this talk about feedback.

It seems that I have been seeing endless articles out there about the importance of giving people feedback as a manager. Really? Do we honestly need to be reminded that talking to the people we supervise about their work is important?

Just step back and have the conversation

I recognize that for some people this may not be an obvious thing to do, but who’s promoting these people into management in the first place? If you can’t provide people with feedback (or let’s just call it talking to them), then you shouldn’t be managing.

Plus, for every article on the importance of giving feedback, there are a couple of articles on how to effectively give it as a manager.

Now, I’m not going to argue that there aren’t some more and less effective ways of providing feedback to people or that managers shouldn’t be trained in giving feedback, but seriously — enough already. We have been convinced, apparently, that the performance of every employee hinges upon the quality of the feedback discussion.

The truth is that no single conversation is going to make or break you as a manager, so stop stressing out about it and have the conversation. It’s not that complicated. Just talk to the employee about what they are doing well, what their work is missing and what just isn’t quite working yet.

And, do it regularly. Thanks to Gallup and others, we have wildly overestimated the importance of each interaction we have with our people. Step back and take a breath. It’s not as big a deal as you think it is. Just have the conversation.

The bigger problem is that we seem to have made it OK for employees to freak out about feedback. And this freak out is what scares even some good managers away from giving feedback. They just don’t’ want to deal with the freak out.

It’s about getting, not giving

Freaking out to feedback is not OK. And you don’t have to tolerate it when employees react inappropriately, particularly to negative feedback.

If they do freak out, you need to give them feedback on how they are taking the feedback and teach them a more appropriate way to handle it. If they don’t figure it out over time, you need to help them become someone else’s problem. You have more important work to do.

This all leads me to one of the major epiphanies of my HR career. Turns out, if you teach people how to receive and process feedback constructively, you don’t have to spend so much time worrying about how managers are giving it. I have had to learn this myself and once I did, I started getting a lot more out of the feedback that came my way, even when it wasn’t delivered the best.

This is real power in flipping the script on feedback.

How about some writing on that? (There might be some here on that topic tomorrow.)

This was originally published on Jason Lauritsen’s blog at

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