It’s a catch 22: The boss asks you for feedback, but you feel like it’s not really welcomed, whether it’s the nonverbals you receive, or the excuses, or perhaps there’s even worse repercussions. I’ve experienced cultures where the feedback seemed to lead to a ticket out the door! Or people leave because of the way they’re treated when they give feedback. And then management is left wondering why they are having an issue with retention! They work on everything except the obvious - helping the leadership team genuinely solicit and accept feedback.
So what can we do as leaders to promote a feedback culture? And by leader, even though we are talking about any level in the organization, let’s start with upper management. Then we’ll take a look at other levels and what they can do to give feedback upward.
Be aware of the value of feedback and truly appreciate hearing issues
Solicit feedback often. Don’t expect people to just give it. Think of ways to make it easy for them, such as asking: What’s working well? What could be better? When applicable, you can ask if they have any ideas for changes.
Don’t take the feedback personally, even when it isn’t delivered in the best way. Often employees are nervous or upset when they give the feedback. You may need to coach them on how to give feedback.
Thank people for feedback. Do not make excuses. Let people know what you will be doing as a result, even if it isn’t what they want. Acknowledging people’s input and giving a reason for your planned action goes a long way in building respect and trust.
When you are given an opportunity to provide feedback, here are some tips to help:
Be aware of your intent. Why are you giving the feedback (hint - if you’re mad or resentful, it will not be received well). Think of giving feedback as helping.
If you lack trust in providing feedback upward, start with something small. See how it is received. If not received well, you might follow it up with sharing your reason for giving the feedback. (Managers are human too - they have bad days and get bombarded with problems.)
Communicate in the positive. Rather than saying something is wrong, switch it around to what it would be if it was right. Then simply say we need more of that. For example, rather than saying we are being micromanaged, you might say something along the lines of “We want to be given the chance to step up and make decisions. It would save time and create a sense of ownership.”
Refrain from talking about people. Keep it focused on behaviors.
If you’re unsure how to deliver the feedback, be transparent and tell your manager that. “Joe, you’ve asked me for feedback but I really don’t know how to say it. I don’t want to point fingers or seem as if I’m complaining. I’d like to help…” Most managers will appreciate this approach and help you deliver the feedback.
It’s true, it can be risky to give feedback. You’ve got to choose if you’d rather have your workplace stay as it is or watch it get worse… or be courageous and find a way to voice it.
We'd love to hear any questions or suggestions!