"I have a feedback for you"

It is a bright morning - You are working in your desk (well… in Covid times, you may have logged in to your machine) with a hot cup of coffee. A message pops up from your boss - “ Can we have a brief chat… I have a feedback for you”

How would you describe your feeling? I asked this question to some of our leaders – the answer is uniform

"Elated? Definitely not! A knot in your stomach? YES - something must have gone wrong"

We have read countless surveys and research which says people want feedback and the same is echoed on all professional forums I attend (be it of business leaders or HR leaders) – and especially Millennials. An entire performance management industry has been built up around this concept, with a plethora of applications concentrating on how to give real-time feedback and how it improves performance and relationship. The big shift in the industry world-wide is from a bi-annual performance management (read Performance Feedback system) to a continuous feedback system. The same trend is visible in India as many progressive companies have moved on this journey. @Crompton we launched the digital-enabled continuous feedback system two years back on pilot basis.

However, the journey has been far from smooth from most, if not all, of us!

Have we ever wondered if everybody wants feedback, how often we have reached out to somebody for feedback or somebody (incl. team members) has reached out for us for feedback? How is that, in most organizations, HR has to chase business leaders and employees to complete the Performance management process on time? If feedback is what everybody wants, then why nobody seem to be interested in getting it?

Have you noticed how Facebook, SnapChat or Instagram (which are used by millennials for “feedback” purpose) are structured? Why do they have only buttons which are “Likes”? Why there is “dislike” buttons to give any other feedback (though of course there are comments spaces)? In fact FB actively tried to introduce other buttons – but to their surprise, nobody used those..

The answer probably can be found in Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology – it is extremely difficult to “accept” feedback which is negative. The biggest barrier to having a candid conversation is to make the person feel secure – and any forms of “negative / developmental” feedback tend to make most people insecure. Noted Behavioral Psychologists speak of “Five-one” rule - which means you need to give five positive reinforcements / signals before a person can accept a negative feedback, without losing his /her sense of security.

Unfortunately, we use the word “feedback” mostly when we have to provide a negative / developmental feedback - hence perhaps that what would explain getting the knot in the stomach when boss utters those words “I have a feedback for you”!

Unfortunately, I have not heard this angle to conversation often – hence, all along I hear - we had to push people to do this. Now isn’t that back on familiar turf again?



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