Corporate Cultures Must Encourage Productive FeedbackBy Jamie Resker on February 1, 2010 in Uncategorized
People are really good at making excuses for not giving feedback. “We’re really nice at XYZ organization” or “we avoid conflict and causing people to feel badly about themselves” are the justifications we most commonly hear. Translation: it’s just easier to let the under performance continue as is; I’ll just focus on my A and B level players.
There are many reasons for not having performance conversations:
- He’s only got another two years before retirement.
- She can’t change.
- That’s the way he’s always been.
- What if I make things worse?
- It’s a personality issue and it’s not my job to deal with that type of thing.
- We can’t afford to lose her.
- The most contradictory of all: “We’re a gentle, nice type of place to work and we avoid conflict”.
A Human Resources Director of a Boston based technology company had a manager ask for assistance to move an under performing employee out of the company. When the HR Director asked the manager when he had a conversation with the employee about the issue, he admitted he hadn’t brought it up with them. She then asked point blank: “So you’d rather fire this person than try to have a conversation about changing the behavior? (See my paper How to Address Employee Behavior Issues) Sadly the manager answered, “Yes, I’d rather just get rid of the person”.
This is an unfortunately common story in many organizations. So, if the organization was really the nice place it claimed to be wouldn’t it make more sense to provide early-on and actionable feedback that would help the employee get back on track?
Good and kind organizations promote these conversations early on before the issue has reached the point of no return. From the employee’s perspective it’s particularly unfair when the issue is in their blind spot. They have no idea their performance is problematic, not because the leader who should be having a conversation is unaware of the issue, but unsure of how to go about the conversation. On the surface this appears to be the “we’re a nice organization who doesn’t engage in conflict”.
What can you do?
What if you work for an organization that is kind and shies away from giving feedback for fear of “upsetting people”? Don’t wait for someone to wave their magic wand and give you the feedback. You could be waiting a very long time. I hate to say it, but assume that there’s information that people are aware of but just aren’t going to tell you about. We all have blind spots; do you know about yours? Be the initiator of gathering important developmental information. Tap into your network of trusted advisors and ask the one thing questions:
- Tell me one thing I’m doing well that I should continue with (after all it’s just as important to know what we’re doing well and should continue with).
- Tell me one thing that would help me be more effective? (notice I’m not asking for a commentary on a weakness; I want the person I’m asking to think forward about something I can take action on in the future)
Being a kind organization means giving people the opportunity to improve, even when it might mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation. The goal should always be to “help the employee out” before “helping them out of the organization”.