Why do we dread feedback?
By Sylvia LaFair
Feedback happens all the time, every day. We get feedback when the lights on the police car are swirling around requesting us to pull over. And the friendly man in blue that comes to the window to say, “Too fast for this road.” Feedback in the form of a $200 ticket, ugh!
In formal performance reviews, most of us have an emotional lump somewhere inside our heads, chests or guts. It’s just feedback, so why the tension? Mostly, there is worry that no matter how stellar our performance, someone will find us at fault.
Honest feedback is both healthy and helpful. However, the stress associated with it is often out of the parameters of the “safe stress zone.” There are employees who will balk at any suggestion that they must improve. They’ll look for any opportunity to “kill the messenger.” Others will gossip and begin a campaign to create sides. (Anyone remember the playground in elementary school?)
Feedback relationships can be positive or destructive. It is not just the responsibility of the “information giver” to learn the skills for feedback that works: It is also the responsibility of the “information getter” to learn how to listen and how to respond.
The more organizations offer tools to practice safe stress, the more feedback can stay in that useful safe stress zone.
Here is the key: When stress is high, we tend to revert to behavior patterns we learned as kids to protect ourselves. They pop up when we feel we are being told we are not good enough or even when another person helps us make small adjustments.
The more employees are offered the way OUT of stress and anxiety, the better it is for the bottom line. Set up classes, bag lunches or after-work seminars to help employees OBSERVE behaviors that get in the way of accepting feedback, UNDERSTAND where these behaviors originated, and TRANSFORM them into positive ways to react.
No matter how you slice and dice it, people skills make the difference between feedback that causes destruction and feedback that promotes growth.
Sylvia Lafair, Ph.D., is a business leadership expert and author of the award-winning book, “Don’t Bring It to Work,” and the soon to be released book, “GUTSY: How Women Leaders Make Change.” She recently presented “Effective Feedback: Words that Motivate Great Employee Performance.” She is President and CEO of Creative Energy Options Inc., a global consulting company focused on optimizing workplace relationships through extratordinary leadership.
Lafair has more than 30 years of experience with all levels of management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (570) 636-3858. Visit her website, www.sylvialafair.com.