Better to receive

By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman via hbr.org   Article

The Assumptions That Make Giving Tough Feedback Even Tougher

“We asked a global sample of 3,875 people who’d received negative or redirecting feedback if they were surprised or had not known already about the problem that was raised. We were taken aback to discover that fully 74% indicated that they had known and were not surprised.

Very often, when we see someone performing poorly we say to ourselves, ‘If they only realized they had a problem they would do better.’ But most of the time, that’s simply not so.  A struggling employee may not realize how serious the problem is, but more likely, he or she is very much aware but hasn’t figured out how to do better. That means that simply pointing out the problem isn’t going to be all that helpful. …

Because both the person giving the feedback and the person receiving it are anxious, they both want to get it over quickly. That’s understandable: the human organism is wired to avoid pain. In practical terms, this usually means a meeting where the manager does a lot of talking and the subordinate remains silent. This might seem like the quickest and the kindest way to get things over with (on both sides), but it’s a terrible mistake. …

Simply put, the less people felt their managers listened to them, the more likely they were to believe that their managers were not being honest and straightforward. One could look at this the other way too – that is, those who felt strongly that their managers listened to them rated them high on their ability to give honest feedback.

It is something of a paradox that we crave constructive feedback and the same time we don’t want to give it. Perhaps getting past that paradox is a matter of remembering, when it’s your turn to be the giver, that it’s really so much better to receive. We can all think of some feedback that has been a gift – advice that has helped us perform better and made us more successful.”

 

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