Feedback, the most dreaded word

I was meeting a bunch of youngsters who recently graduated and entered the corporate world. One simple question I asked was, “How many of you have received some feedback in the last month?” Their faces turned pale.

I went to an experienced team member in one of my teams and said, “I need to talk to you.”

She asked, “Some feedback?”

“Yes, kind of.”

Her face turned pale.

Is “feedback” such a bad word in the workplace?

Feedback hurts, brings the morale down, and even humiliates. Not a single person I talked to liked feedback, be it the newcomer or the most experienced. The word has been overused and has become a malapropism for “complaint”. Perhaps this is the reason why feedback is feared.

I often ask in these situations, “Do you ride a motorcycle?” There will be at least one who does so. Do they recognize the sound of their motorcycle, while riding? They do. Do they immediately recognize it when the sound is unusual? Almost all of them do. What would they do immediately? Ignore or consult a mechanic? The answer is obvious, isn’t it?

You are unwell; you have a headache. Do you ignore it? You perhaps take a nap or take a pill. Or consult a doctor if the pain is persistent, for further diagnosis. When everything works well in your body, you are fine. When something goes wrong, your body sends out signals so you can focus on that part, in order to make it “normal”.

Feedback in the workplace is similar. When everything goes normal, we are fine too. When something goes wrong, there is some mechanism to force us to look into that and take some remedial measures. It’s not bad stuff. Rather it makes one better.

But why is feedback so feared? How can we make it a successful mechanism?

Understanding the need for feedback

As I said earlier, we should understand that feedback is a mechanism that will put us on the right path and help us bring out the best in each of us. It provides us with an opportunity to fine-tune the way we work so we create the best. Openness to receiving feedback is very important.

Providing feedback

As much as openness to receiving feedback is essential, providing feedback is a crucial step. If the person at fault made the mistake because of a learning issue, a procedural issue, or an application issue, teach them. Teach them irrespective of whether it was taught already. There are slow learners like me. Understand that not everyone will learn a skill at the same pace as others.

Sometimes we make mistakes without any reason. Even Homer nods. But Homer nods rarely. If a person makes frequent mistakes without any reason, then it is still feedback. This time to us. Either the hire is not right or the fit is not right.

Time for us to learn.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn and is republished here.

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