Most Of Us Will Go To Great Lengths To Avoid Giving Feedback | Everyday Feedback Most Of Us Will Go To Great Lengths To Avoid Giving Feedback | Everyday Feedback
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Most Of Us Will Go To Great Lengths To Avoid Giving Feedback

shutterstock_584804440People don’t give feedback–even when it’s in everybody’s interest.

Here’s the situation: One person, often the boss, sees that a person they work with is not meeting their goal or that they need to adjust something they’re doing to make it better. And guess what? The observer usually says nothing.

Based on decades of organizational research and interviewing leaders and employees at all levels, I see a distinct pattern. There are a few people who give prompt, honest feedback to help the other person do better, but that’s maybe 5% of the population.

Another 15% say something after a week or two or more. And what they say is pretty helpful. But it got delayed and may now confuse the other person who is blithely doing their work in the way they think best.

Another 20% say something promptly but it’s super critical and feels like an attack to the other person. While the person they criticize may correct the way they’re doing their work, they may also shut down, resent the feedback giver, and feel disengaged from the shared project. In some cases, they leave the team or the company as soon as they can.

Another 60% avoid, delay, or weaken their feedback to the point of depriving the other person feedback they can really use.

And what do these 60% do instead?

-Tell themselves that the person will probably self-correct or get feedback from another source

-Talk to a different colleague to criticize the other person and vent their frustrations. Even after weeks or months of this, they may still continue this behavior.

-Have a feedback conversation that is so vague that the other person has no clue that any change is being requested. In fact, the feedback giver may feel so stressed that they end up giving only positive feedback and fail to bring up suggestions for change.

-Go unconscious & mentally dissociate from the need to give feedback and avoid saying anything. Ever.

These behaviors apply to the majority of people in the workplace. Human beings are naturally avoiders of giving feedback. But what is fascinating is that these patterns are present:

-Even when a huge amount of money–in the millions or billions–is being wasted

-Even when strategic choices for the company’s future are ill-informed

-Even when quality of the product and the reputation & brand of the organization is being compromised

-Even when safety of human beings is being compromised. There are many dramatic examples of air and space flights in pilots & other experts who knew better held back their feedback. In other settings, product safety is not addressed or corruption left to continue without feedback.

The fear of giving feedback and evoking a negative reaction from the other person is so great that it feels better to allow negative outcomes that to say something. Even when human life or well-being is endangered, it feels “safer” to stay mum.

Before we can improve how we give feedback, each of us must recognize how we follow these same human patterns. Once we see which patterns are characteristic of our approach to feedback, we can calm our fears and begin to see the how feedback can be super beneficial to ourselves and others and that it is in fact necessary for great outcomes.



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