Giving feedback, does it damage or do good?

by Last updated Nov 28, 2021Managing Introverts

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Giving feedback at work is normally assumed to be a good thing, some people view it as a key part of managing staff. All employees want feedback and recognition, don’t they? Does feedback always help and how should one consider the introvert when giving feedback?

Performance feedback is giving people our view of their performance and how to improve it (that might be their work role, giving a presentation, managing a situation, etc.).

This article is mainly about performance feedback when it’s requested, or expected (as part of a “manager/ subordinate role”).  But we should also consider unrequested (peer to peer) feedback, as it can do more harm than good.

Why is feedback assumed to be good?

People who know their strengths are 8% more productive.

Most HR practitioners suggest that feedback is important, annual appraisals (a formalised feedback method) are essential, and should be supported by more regular (less formal) feedback.

The case for all this employee feedback is that well-constructed comments help others understand their weaker, and stronger points, in a manner that allows them to grow in confidence and to grow their skills. Key in that sentence was “well constructed“. But, there’s another belief out there – unvarnished feedback.

Unvarnished feedback?

There are some proponents of “unvarnished feedback“, Kim Scott’s book “Radical Candor”, suggests that completely honest and frank feedback to your work colleagues is kindness.

As a manager giving feedback you (presumably) want to improve performance and staff turnover. Does such candor help anybody feel part of the team and want to stay?

Telling people what we think is not always good.

Research shows (Harvard Business Review) telling people what we think doesn’t always help them thrive and telling them how they should improve can hinder learning.

What’s the problem with feedback?

The problem lies in 3 key places, feedback assumes:

  1. the feedback provider is right (when, let’s be honest, it’s only their view)
  2. you’re doing something wrong and should be corrected.
  3. there is one best (right?) way of doing something

Each point is debatable!

Feedback only when it’s requested.

This article is about performance feedback when it’s requested (or expected as part of a “manager/ subordinate role”).  A manager may have the right to give their view, as it’s how they will judge the employee, but unrequested (peer to peer) feedback doesn’t fit into this category.

Unrequested peer to peer feedback tends to be ego driven and serves introverts (or anybody else) no purpose on two points:

  1. it’s unrequested and doesn’t help anybody (introvert, or extrovert).
  2. it’s ego driven and introverts tend to dislike strong ego.

Giving feedback to introverts.

Introverts don’t need handling with kid gloves, managing introverts isn’t some special process, introversion is a preference it does not mean that somebody is in a permanently weak state and needing help. However understanding people will help you manage more effectively.

Introverts tend to be more reflective than extroverts. As a result they tend to use internal validation, to “know” they’re doing a good job. That’s not to say that feedback to isn’t useful; but they tend seek less / not to seek external validation (wanting comments or praise from others).

One of the oft stated benefit of feedback is to grow staff self confidence. To help an introvert be more confident means helping them validate themselves, rather than just saying “great job”. Helping them understand what the elements of a great job are, then helping them work out how well they did against those elements; will improve their internal validation.

That means well constructed feedback is important, poorly constructed “radical candor” is more likely to be damaging.

Introvert giving feedback

How can we really help others to improve?

If you want an employee to remain in the business and to improve their effectiveness, two useful pieces of research:

  • Employees whose managers consistently acknowledge their good work are five times more likely remain in the business (Qualtrics).
  • People who know their strengths are also 8% more productive — and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% higher productivity (Gallup).

Asking for feedback to improve yourself?

If you want to improve your own performance asking others for help can be a good tactic (but choose who you ask!). Research suggests that asking for advice, rather than feedback will get you better results. Feedback can be too vague, where advice tends to be more specific and linked to future performance.

“Feedback” tips for managers.

Spending a week or two doing the following doesn’t work, but developing habits around the following will help improve performance.

  • Look for the good: Get better at seeing when staff members do something well, comment on it immediately.
  • Showing humility: Introverts tend to value humility, so being honest about how you would improve your own performance can help.
  • Advice, more than feedback: Ask for, and give, advice rather than feedback.
  • Ask questions: Self reflection is good at helping people learn (and introverts are good at it), so ask questions rather than just make statements (“What would you change next time?”)
  • Own your feedback: If giving feedback, accept it is how you view/ feel and make that clear to the recipient.

What do you think about feedback, should it be different for introverts or just done better everywhere?

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