I hate ‘Feedback’!


Really, I do!

First there is the word itself. It has soooooooooo many associations and connotations linked to it that the instant you say the word to someone it puts up a huge barrier. Are barriers helpful to communication? No! Then why put one up?

Then there is the almost over zealous fascination we have with telling people that they have done something wrong or need to do it better. Even though someone may have done something 90% correct, we feel the need to tell them about the 10%. Are you always 100%? No! So why put up another barrier to future communication?

Next there are those egotistical assumption(s) that a) what we think is right and b) that the other person doesn’t already know it could be better. Does it p*#s you off when someone tells you what you know already? Yes! Then why p*#s off other people?

In my humble opinion, we can do better. As human beings, we are at our best when:

– Others tell us what they like about us and/or what we do well.
– We feel happy and proud of the achievements we make.
– Others truly value us as individuals and the contribution we make.

Let’s put some time, effort and energy into really focussing on what others do really well and then go even further to tell people, explicitly, in detail, what they did, how they did it and what it meant (to you, the company, a customer, a client). That way I know:

– what exactly I did that made a difference
– the difference it made
– that you (as the person telling me) value me and/or what I did
– how to get this lovely feeling again, by doing more of the same

If you do need to talk to me about something you think I needed to do differently or better, start by asking me what I think needed doing differently or better, I probably know already. That way, I will be more likely to want to change it.

Maybe, just maybe we can stop creating barriers and begin to focus on achievements and getting me to do more of what I am good at!

What do you think about feedback?
Can we get rid of it completely?


6 responses to “I hate ‘Feedback’!

  1. May I suggest that perhaps its not feedback that you hate, but the way it can sometimes bf given? Your points of how you like to be communicated with are, to my mind, exactly the type of thing that constitutes good feedback.

    I guess much about how we feel about this type of stuff depends on our experiences to date, and in that respect I’m very lucky as I’ve had some really good and thoughtful feedback over the years, which has helped me to realise blind spots I’ve been unaware of.

    Great thought-provoking post 🙂

  2. Hi Alison. You are probably right that it is more about the way it is delivered than anything else. Like you I have had someone help me out spotting my blind spots and they did it by asking me some really good questions. The idea was definitely to provoke some thought.

  3. I think Alison got it spot on, it’s not feedback, but rubbish feedback that’s the problem.

    I wonder why we seem obsessed with picking holes in people even when all the theory says ‘reinforce the positive’, there must be something happening that feeds our belief that giving feedback about faults helps and I think part of it might be an entirely human misunderstanding of the impact of our interventions on performance. What I mean by that is if someones performance dips below their usual level, and we give them a bollocking (sorry, some constructive feedback), and they improve, we believe our bollocking has made a difference. If their performance is better than usual and we praise them, and their performance returns to their usual level we believe the praise was useless. In reality performance in both cases was going to return near to the usual level, because…well, that’s their usual level, its called ‘regression to the mean’. The problem is that our experience isn’t that interested in stats and errors in intuition and tells us that giving a bollocking is generally followed by performance improvement and praise is followed by performance dips. Our experience is powerful stuff, even when it’s mistaken.

    (NB there is a great explanation of this in ‘The Drunkards Walk’)

    • Hi Kev.

      What an amazing comment, thank you.

      I agree we pay too little attention & make sweeping judgements. Your comments on returning to the mean also resonate with me. I wil have to look out the Drunkards Walk.

      Do you think that with continued reinforcement of the positive the journey back to the mean will be slower and/or the mean will change?

      Someone I worked with, after 18 months of reinforcing the positive their average performance improved. At least I ‘feel like’ it did. There is that intuition again.

      • Sorry, it was more like a blog than a comment. You’re right too, I think we should be working on changing the mean and that will take long term, consistent and positive support and feedback

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