Feedback in hybrid workplaces – Part 3

The impact of avoiding feedback, over the past few years, at its best is growing ‘nice’ workplaces. Now nice isn’t bad. It just creates a ceiling for the business and people’s growth. Workplaces that are nice spend time talking around things, not addressing what really needs to be said, ignoring sub-par work, walking past poor behaviours, making excuses for people and instead of passive aggressive doing lots of passive agreement.

Think the 1998 movie, Pleasantville, one of Tobey Maguire and Reece Witherspoon’s early movies. Where everyone comes across as perfect but life is in black and white. They have no idea how much they are limiting their lives by staying permanently nice. Never pushing boundaries or discussing anything uncomfortable. 

We are like this in the workplace. People’s well-being was a massive issue when COVID first hit and then the lockdowns and working from home began. Some coped better than others but the isolation and fear of getting sick was real. People avoided tough conversations for fear of upsetting people. Now this intent is kind. Kindness is good. But it’s the combination of candid and kind that creates safe workplaces. Not one without the other.

An example of what life would look like without avoidance and a dogged commitment to a colourful workplace, with a strong culture, and committed to a hybrid workplace well before COVID is Netflix. 

Netflix’s manifesto articulates their culture and what they hold their people to account on. They know what makes them special is:

Communicate candidly and directly

‘At Netflix, positive and constructive feedback is part of everyday life—not only an annual event. Meaningful feedback can be hard to give or accept. But like any new habit, it gets easier with practice’.

It says: ‘In the tension between honesty and kindness, we lean into honesty. No matter how honest, though, we treat people with respect’. They ask their people to listen well, instead of reacting fast. To maintain calm poise in stressful situations.

They are vocal about hiring fully formed adults who are resilient and don’t take disagreement personally. In saying all of this, this dogged commitment to feedback – giving and receiving – is not for everyone. Some employees report the culture akin to being an ‘emotional Navy SEAL’. It requires work. Work on yourself. Personally, I reckon that’s the secret to a great workplace – fully formed humans. 

So it’s no surprise they have grown from $2.3M profit in 2003 to $5.5B in 2022. That’s no mean feat. 

At Netflix, culture doesn’t just matter. It’s essential to their success. Yes they have said goodbye to over 300 employees recently. That doesn’t mean they are not successful. It’s the rise and fall of business. Where their staff work doesn’t matter. As long as they are committing to the culture. Not Pleasantville. 

Highly successful remote/hybrid workplaces give and receive feedback. 

If you want to hear more about why feedback feels so hard and what you can do about it you should come to my next online event Embedding a Feedback Culture in 2023. Check it out here.