Monday, April 27, 2009

Feedback (Phobia or Mania?)

So, here’s one of the most dreaded question or one that’s asked just about every other minute. Be it after interviews, one-to-one with managers, team meetings, from clients/markets, product launches, peers & most other places.

Do you have any feedback for me?

It’s a very pro-active question. A question that can open a floodgate of varied inputs ranging from opinions to acceptance to criticism. Everything depends on how much the listener can handle or comprehend? Does he have the time for giving you a feedback? How much can the listener filter while listening? Does the listener defend or accept? It’s tough, unpredictable and definitely not in control of the person asking for it. You can also bet on the fact that it’s very hard to predict answers to your query. Often, Murphy’s Law prevails.

Is it phobia?

A start point for asking feedback is in identifying the right person. Most often, feedbacks are asked from the wrong person. Obviously, they’ll stay from giving one citing various reasons. Another one could be a case of an incompetent supervisor who doesn’t know how to give feedback.

Think about an interview situation at work: Jack interviewed with your company last week and is yet to hear from you. So he sends an email asking for feedback (even if it’s a negative one). That’s great. He is keen to know how he performed and wants to improve. It’s a sign of a person willing to learn. Yet, the manager hesitates to give feedback lest they say something that can land them in a potential lawsuit! Not knowing what to say is a major problem that leads to a phobia. There could a thousand other situations at a workplace.

Giving positive feedback is a lot easier. It’s a tough task giving negative feedback. Using tact doesn’t come naturally to many people. This leads them to stay away from the problem, rather than taking it on and learn in the process.

Is it mania?

Here’s a problem that needs to be fixed very soon. You know that team member who can never do anything with asking for feedback. From writing documents, sending/replying to emails, preparing reports or even coding, everything needs to have feedback from either managers or peers. Almost on a 24/7 basis! It could be a serious case of low self-esteem or self-belief. It can lead to an uncomfortable situation for both managers & peers. They want to get on with their work and a feedback-maniac will only hinder their work schedule. That’s not a good sign. After all everyone is heading towards a deadline.

Feedback isn’t always about saying, “‘Great job! Let’s move on to the next project and continue to meet deadlines.” People know when they have done a great job. Right. Feedback is asked to improve performance. Having to give insightful or useful feedback means spending time on someone else’s work. If you are a manager, then you are required to give feedback; either formally or informally. You just can’t shy away from it! Go ahead and ask for help if you need.

For people asking for constructive feedback: Stick with it. Really. It’s a great approach to have at work. It’s the only way to get better at what you do.