Feedback is not a gift

#2 Having better performance conversations series

How many times have we heard ‘Feedback is a gift!’? I think at least 100 times from me. But I am not sure I believe this anymore. Yep, you heard it. The feedback expert is changing her stance. 

Blanket statements like this can be damaging. We’ve all received gifts before that we didn’t like or sometimes were even wary of. Like the time I received a coffee machine from a partner (when I didn’t drink coffee). Yep true. 

When I was writing ‘Flawsome: The journey to being whole is learning to be holey’ I took the perspective that all feedback was good. That we had to be conscious of our triggers and how we react to feedback – to learn to find the gold. I still believe this. And I know that when we realise that other people’s perspectives are just that – perspectives then we can choose to hear what we like. But it’s not black and white. We live in the grey. 

How we give feedback matters. We can choose to ignore the content. We can disagree with others’ perspectives. If we didn’t we would all be in echo chambers in complete agreement and nothing would change. It’s unhelpful and unrealistic to think we need agreement in this world. But what we need more of is kindness. When feedback doesn’t feel kind something is missing. What’s missing is good intent. 

Feedback that’s not a gift comes with poor intent. It can look and sound like many things: 

  • The feedback vomit: Content given with no intention of hearing your side.
  • The hidden agenda: They are saying one thing but you can smell another.
  • The ‘I don’t have time’: Said quickly with little right of reply or even better, sent as an email.
  • The opinion barrage: No examples or facts. Just a slew of opinions and something finished with ‘everyone else thinks so’.
  • The assassination: Where statements like; “I’m just speaking my truth” are the defense. Which becomes an excuse to verbally assassinate another.
  • The power play: The ‘I am your boss’ move which is a blatant use of power.

You get the gist. 

What if you receive feedback that feels harsh, unfair, and unkind? Give them feedback about their feedback. Show them that content and intent matter. Otherwise, our future experiences, with them and for many others, may be the same. And, how will they learn? And do it with grace. Show them how it is done. Even when you don’t feel like it. 

Come along to my upcoming free online session on ‘Embedding a feedback culture’ to discover how we can make feedback sessions more kind. Check it out and register here.