Giving feedback, does it damage or do good?

by Feb 23, 2021Developing staff

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Giving feedback at work is normally assumed to be a good thing and some view it as a key part of managing staff. Afterall all employees want feedback and recognition. Do they? Does feedback always help and how does feedback need to consider the introvert?

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).

Why is feedback assumed to be good?

Most HR practitioners suggest that feedback is important, that 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”, there’s another belief out there.

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.

Let’s be frank, most of us are seeking approval of our peers, is such candor good or kind? 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 isn’t 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 (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. Such unrequested feedback tends to be ego driven and serves introverts 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.

Feedback and the introvert.

Two opposing views here:

  • Introverts seek approval, so well-constructed feedback is a real bonus. However radical candor might be damaging.
  • Introverts are more self-referencing that their more extroverted colleagues and so don’t need so much feedback.

If you believe introverts need/ want approval more than others, then being blunt might not be helpful. But, I see no evidence that introverts need/ want approval more than others?

You probably know people who actively seek validation (feedback), this is nothing to do with introversion. There are some suggestions that introverts are less in need of feedback.

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 is better. 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?

You may also like to read:

Or listen to: 

An interview with Helene Jewell of the International Association of Facilitators on how to improve your meetings.


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