Drum roll… fanfare… and shameless plug alert… my new book, ‘The Feedback Book’ is out this week.
Why did I write The Feedback Book? Here are 6 reasons.
- Because feedback is too important to wait for the annual appraisal
- Because too many employees don’t get feedback
- Because a worrying number of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs – and their managers
- Because too many people aren’t sure how to give feedback
- Because people can be wary of receiving feedback
- Because feedback is essential
Historically, employees could expect to get feedback on their performance at work in their annual appraisal discussion. 12 months could be quite a while to wait before you found out how you were doing – and what a waste of time and talent if something that could have been improved upon wasn’t discussed at the time, but instead stored up for the annual appraisal. But that was then; employers are now waking up to the time-draining, soul-sapping, box-ticking exercise that too many annual appraisals have become. Accenture predicted the end for annual appraisals last year – see ‘Goodbye Annual Performance Appraisals’ & ndash; and many high profile employers are moving away from them. Is yours?
Although many employers are shifting to more frequent conversations about performance, others are concerned – rightly in my opinion – that the baby may get thrown out with the bathwater. Because feedback every 12 months was better than the nothing employees would get otherwise. In their excellent (yet rather damning) ‘2016 Quality of Working Life’ study, The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that 36% of respondents didn’t get feedback – that’s a lot of employees. And I wonder if the figure is much higher in some organisations than others. How frequently do you get feedback?
Investors in People’s ‘Job Exodus Trends 2016’ found the depressing statistic that a third of employees surveyed were unhappy in their jobs. What were the top 3 reasons given for this sad state of affairs? Yes, pay was in the top 3 – in third place. Taking the first and second spots were ‘poor management’ and ‘not feeling valued’. Evidently employees need more feedback (and just in case you were thinking feedback was all about criticism, allow me to point out that it can and should include positive feedback, a.k.a. praise). If you need to correct some aspect of your performance, wouldn’t you rather know? Does your manager say so? If you’ve done something well, does your manager show they’ve noticed?
OK, I appreciate that for some cultures where plain speaking is the norm this point may seem strange. However the reason given by many employees for not giving feedback at all / more often (I take a poll on this when doing talks) is they’re not sure what to say and how to say it. People are also concerned about a) giving positive feedback / praise to someone and coming over as a complete creep and b) giving corrective feedback to someone who’s already under pressure and overwhelmed. So they duck it. That’s a shame. So I made it my job to come up with a simple yet effective framework to help them give feedback that’s effective, and above all, actionable. For more on this see my post ‘Giving actionable feedback needs action words’.
There’s evidence* that being on the receiving end of criticism from one’s manager can set off a physiological reaction that’s the same as when we experience physical pain. It hurts – ouch. When badly done, feedback can inflict hurt and damage working relationships. If you’ve been on the receiving end of waffling, unclear, critical feedback – or the dreaded S%§& sandwich – it’s no surprise that you brace yourself for a blow when someone utters the words, “Can I just give you some feedback?” We go into ‘flight or fight’ mode as our ancient evolutionary wiring reacts to a perceived threat. Which means we’re not exactly switched on to receive. We need to stay open and curious, if necessary help the giver of feedback to clarify the behaviour that has prompted it, and work with them to identify the steps that will ensure performance improves.
* For more on the psychological and physiological impact of workplace stress, see the highly-respected ‘Whitehall II study’.
Are you a manager? Are you responsible for the performance – and let’s not forget, job satisfaction and wellbeing – of fellow employees? Then feedback is an essential part of your role. Welcome to your job. This book will help you do it well.
Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’, available at selected branches of WH Smith and on Amazon.