Are You Failing at Feedback?

Posted on by Leave a Comment

If you’ve ever watched children playing a game of Marco Polo in the swimming pool, you have a fundamental grasp of the power of feedback. With eyes closed, relying only on the voices of other players, the person who is “it” (Marco) must find and tag someone in the pool. Players respond by shouting “Polo” whenever Marco shouts out. These audio clues provide a stream of feedback that Marco follows until the goal of tagging another player is achieved. Without the feedback, Marco would flounder around the pool blindly with little opportunity to succeed.

How Feedback Can Help

Organizations want to complete more effectively, managers want their teams to excel and employees want to do better. None of these goals can be achieved without feedback.

Among other things, feedback helps us understand:

  • What we can change to get better results
  • The rate of progress towards a goal
  • What needs to happen to improve relationships
  • Whether something is worth doing
  • How well we are doing
  • What others think of us or how they value us
  • Our level of performance against a target[1]

Unfortunately, in spite of its importance, feedback is often neglected, leaving everyone in a feedback vacuum. Furthermore, when feedback is offered, it’s often done poorly and is not well received.  

5 Common Feedback Fails

If you’re serious about cultivating a healthy feedback culture in your workplace, consider these common feedback fails and strive to avoid them.

Photo by Sam Howzit, Flickr

1. Not providing corrective feedback when it’s necessary: Many managers hate giving corrective feedback. Some even find it more difficult than firing someone! But avoiding difficult conversations in hopes that unwanted behavior will simply disappear is a major feedback fail.

When we wait until we’re completely frustrated with a specific behaviour before providing feedback (i.e. we explode!), chances are the feedback we give will be neither constructive nor helpful. More likely, it will be perceived as an unwarranted attack, triggering resentment and defensiveness.

2. Saving positive feedback for later: Whether later means next week, month-end or during an annual performance review, positive feedback does not improve with age. Ken Blanchard, author of One Minute Manager, says

“Of all the concepts that I have taught over the years, the most important is about ‘catching people doing things right.’ There is little doubt in my mind that the key to developing people is to catch them doing something right and praising them for their performance.”

Never save your positive feedback for another day. When you catch someone doing something right, let them know right away or as soon as possible. 

3. Asking for feedback when you don’t want it: Feedback provides critical information that we need to succeed as organizations, as leaders and as individuals.

Asking for feedback makes sense—as long as you intend to listen, consider and learn from that feedback. If you’re only asking for feedback to keep up appearances or provide lip service to a feedback culture, don’t waste your breath. Before requesting input into a decision or feedback on your own behavior, stop and think about whether you really intend to take that feedback into account. If you don’t, don’t ask.[2]

4. Getting your back up: A feedback fail ancillary to “asking for feedback when you don’t want it” would be “responding defensively to feedback you asked for.” Sometimes our reaction can be visceral when feedback is not as positive as we expected and we immediately get our back up and reject what we’re hearing. To benefit from feedback, we need to overcome our natural defensiveness and focus on listening.

When you ask for feedback, be prepared to take the bad with the good and accept it all in the spirit of continual improvement.

Of course, sometimes you’ll get feedback you didn’t ask for. Getting your back up over feedback offered as an appropriate component of the workplace relationship (e.g. from a manager, mentor or team lead), is another common feedback fail. Whether you've requested feedback or it comes at you unsolicited, defensiveness prevents you from considering valuable information that may take you to the next level.

5. Botching the employee survey process: Many organizations use surveys and other tools to solicit feedback from employees. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the results of such tools to be reviewed and promptly dismissed, or worse, generate some kind of punitive reaction. In either case, the result can be a significant feedback fail for the entire organization.

When you reach out to your workforce for feedback, be prepared to:

  1. Hear the good, the bad and the ugly.
  2. Appreciate honesty.
  3. Share results.
  4. Respond to identified issues.
  5. Make change as required.
  6. Thank everyone for their input (and mean it!).

Mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback places a powerful tool at your disposal that will help you better develop yourself, your team and your organization. Take on the challenge and become a feedback champion in your workplace. 


What are you doing to create a feedback culture in your workplace?  NetSuite TribeHR can help – start your free trial today!

[2] Harvard Business Review. Don’t Ask for Feedback Unless You Want It.

Brain Health and Workplace Performance

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Although there’s a lot of evidence that brain health is improved when a mind remains active and challenged; increasingly, research shows that mental downtime is even more important. In his article in Scientific American, Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime, Ferris Jabr writes: Brain Health by Dan Century, Flikr “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. “ Some research suggests the brain’s ability to make sense of …

Slow Down: Multitasking Is Bad For Productivity

Posted on by Leave a Comment

In today’s workplace, multitasking is appreciated by many as a good work habit and a sign of commitment to the job. Some people seem to be able to juggle personal crises, help co-workers and still get their work done. While they may whirl like dervishes, they seem to take it all in stride without breaking a sweat. These people are powerhouses of productivity—or does it just seem that way? Mardi Gras Multitasking by Bart Everson, Wikimedia Commons Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was considered by some to be as powerful as the president during his …

Creating Performance Objectives

Posted on by Leave a Comment

One of the most challenging aspects of training is quantifying results. The reason it’s challenging stems from the fact that learning can be difficult to measure. In the workplace, however, it’s critical to measure results to determine whether required information has been absorbed and skills have been acquired—not to mention gauging whether the investment was justified. Excellence by John Fischer, Flickr To make sure they can effectively measure the impact of training, good workplace training program developers create learning objectives using a specific format that ensures results can be assessed.  Each measurable learning …

Risk Management Basics

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Cultivating an understanding of risk management fundamentals is valuable at any level of an organization: whether you’re an executive considering the broader risks your company is exposed to in a globally competitive environment, or a front line supervisor responsible for workplace safety. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain Pro-Active Risk Management Ideally, risk assessment and mitigation is part of every planning process. One of the most common areas where pro-active risk management can improve outcomes is at the project level. When planning a project, risks can be categorized into two groups. Internal Project Risks: These are risks to the project …

Helping People Succeed at Work

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Self Concept by Nathalya Cubas, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 In 1960, Prentice-Hall published a book by well-known plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz. This book, Psycho-Cybernetics, went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide[1] and is still considered one of the most influential writings about self-concept and the power of visualization in attaining goals. Maltz discovered that the majority of his patients who underwent cosmetic surgery procedures were still dissatisfied with their looks after the “problems” were corrected. He concluded that people were responding to some inner perception of how they look, rather than seeing what was now in …

Performance is Complicated

Posted on by Leave a Comment

USA gold medal winner Heather O'Reilly by Geoff Livingston, Wikimedia Commons,Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The story of success, writes that accomplishment is all about practice, timing and the doors that are opened for you along the way. In fact, Gladwell firmly believes that inherent talent has little, if anything, to do with success. He provides a number of convincing examples and trends that support his premise: success is about being in the right place at the right time with access to the right people and tools; and that mastery of …

Working Offsite Boosts Creativity and Focus

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Geographic Project, Barrie Eyre, Wikmedia Commons We recommend that vacation time be a time to unplug, unwind and recharge. Taking work on a vacation does not help with any of those objectives. On the other hand, turning remote work into something enjoyable in a vacation-like environment never hurt anyone. This is not to suggest that “workations” replace regular vacations. On the contrary, this is about doing the work you might normally do in your home office or at a co-working location on a beach, at a cottage, on your patio or even on a mountaintop. Sometimes a change …

Spring Forward at Work

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Anyone who has lived through this past winter (yes, it’s over, even if Mother Nature hasn’t quite conceded the point yet!), knows that weather can affect your mood.  From the physiological and psychological reactions to reduced daylight and perpetual cold, to acute stress caused by hazardous driving conditions and having to winter-dress children every time they leave the house; life in general is just a bit harder when facing a harsh winter. Grasshopper of the ZEBRA Stelzentheater, by Katharina on Flikr On the flip side, sunny days and balmy temperatures have been shown to increase …

Focus, Flow and Productivity in the Open Office

Posted on by Leave a Comment

Cubicle Fresh by Sean Duffell According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (no, I can’t pronounce it either!), psychology professor and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, people are most creative and productive when they are in a state of “flow.” Understanding "Flow" Flow is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”[1] This TED Talk by Professor …

Next Page

Experience TribeHR for Yourself
Contact us to schedule a demo of TribeHR.

Book A Demo
The Latest from Workplace Tribes
How Do You Handle Conflict? March 02, 2015
Leadership Refresher February 27, 2015
We Are All Connected February 25, 2015
What HR Can Learn from Effective Sales Proposals February 23, 2015
Why Giving is as Important as Shipping February 20, 2015
The Importance of Clear Signals at Work February 18, 2015
Swatting a Fly with a Sledgehammer February 16, 2015
6 Ways to Get the Most out of Training your Team February 13, 2015
Fighting the “Mommy Dead End” February 11, 2015
8 Tips for Surviving Your Daily Commute February 09, 2015