Constructive Feedback: Developing your Skills
"I don't know how to turn her performance around; she never used to have these attendance problems and her work used to be so good; I don't know why this is happening and what to do."
This manager is struggling with one of the most important yet trickiest and most difficult management tasks: providing contructive and useful feedback to others. Effective feedback is absolutely essential to organizational effectiveness; people must know where they are and where to go next in terms of expectations and goals-yours, their own, and the organization.
Feedback taps basic human needs-to improve, to compete, to be accurate; people want to be competent. Feedback can be reinforcing; if given properly, feedback is almost always appreciated and motivates people to improve. But for many people, daily work is like bowling with a curtain placed between them and the pins; they receive little information.
Be aware of the many reasons why people are hesitant to give feedback; they include fear of causing embarassment, discomfort, fear of an emotional reaction, and inability to handle the reaction.
It is crucial that we realize how critical feedback can be and overcome our difficulties; it is very important and can be very rewarding but it requires skill, understanding, courage, and respect for yourself and others.
Withholding constructive feedback is like sending people out on a dangerous hike without a compass. This is especially true in today's fast changing and demanding workplace.
Why managers are often reluctant to provide feedback
As important as feedback is, this critical managerial task remains one of the most problematic. Many managers would rather have root canal work than provide feedback to another-especially feedback that might be viewed as critical. Why are managers so reluctant to provide feedback? The Reasons are many:
fear of the other person's reaction; people can get very defensive and emotional when confronted with feedback and many managers are very fearful of the reaction
the feedback may be based on subjective feeling and the manager may be unable to give concrete information if the other person questions the basis for the feedback
the information on which the feedback is based (eg. performance appraisal) may be a very flawed process and the manager may not totally trust the information
many managers would prefer being a coach than "playing God."
Other factors get in the way of effective communication or feedback sessions. Some of these reasons are:
· defensiveness, distorted perceptions, guilt, project, transference, distortions from the past
· misreading of body language, tone
· noisy transmission (unreliable messages, inconsistency)
· receiver distortion: selective hearing, ignoring non-verbal cues
· power struggles
· self-fulfilling assupmtions
· language-different levels of meaning
· managers hesitation to be candid
· assumptions-eg. assuming others see situation same as you, has same feelings as you
· distrusted source, erroneous translation, value judgment, state of mind of two people