How about managers ask for feedback from their employees?
In my previous article, I explored the channels that are most likely to provide specific and immediate feedback to managers on how they manage. The most common channels (like relying on your boss’s boss) are not reliably effective, while the channel with the highest likelihood of success is to receive feedback directly from employees. So why don’t managers get feedback from their employees?
Many managers are not good at being a manager, and the ones who suffer most directly from poor management practices are the employees. Similarly, employees are also the ones who are most likely to observe the behaviors of the boss, and have the ability to identify different ways for the boss to behave that would help the team perform better (i.e., “Instead of yelling, I would like it if you would speak to me in a calm voice.”)
However, it is extremely difficult for employees to break through that barrier of the manager’s authority and ability to both passively and actively recriminate against the employee who dares to tell the boss what to do differently. When this is the case, there is no feedback culture in the organization.
If there is no feedback culture established in the organization, that moment when an employee tries to give feedback to the manager, it will probably go poorly, unless the employee does all sorts of due diligence (stay tuned for an upcoming series on this!). The more likely scenario is that employees will complain amongst themselves, roll their eyes, and tolerate ongoing management mistakes.
In turn, managers will think that they are doing everything well. After all, no one is telling the manager that they aren’t!
The problem is that managers are in a strange bubble that prevents them from getting ongoing, specific and immediate feedback on how they manage. They are not likely to get it from their own boss (who is in a similar bubble), the customers are not likely to give feedback on how they manage their team, and other inputs, such as attrition rates, management surveys, and exit interviews will be delayed, cryptic and easy to dismiss. Team metrics – and the responsibility for how they turn out – can be attributed retroactively to either the manager’s actions (if the results are good) or to the various people on the team or external events (if the results are bad).
One area for hope is for the manager to establish the expectation that employees give specific, immediate and ongoing feedback as a manager. The more the manager establishes the feedback culture, gets used to receiving feedback from her employees, and the better the feedback is given (i.e., behavior-based), and the more ongoing the feedback is, the more likely a manager who requests feedback will get good feedback on how she managers. The manager becomes less likely to be in a bubble, and can potentially get good at being a manager, with the help of the collective team.
Added up, this creates a feedback culture. The employees give feedback to the manager and the manager gives feedback to the employees.
In many organizations, feedback is mixed up with evaluation – once someone receives feedback, then they are evaluated. This is not the case in the feedback culture – instead of conflating feedback with evaluation, feedback should be conflated with ongoing improvement and using each other’s observations and strategic ability to make things better.
So managers – if you want to get better, you’re going to need feedback from somewhere. A good source is employees. They won’t be great at giving feedback at first – especially to you – but they can get better.
In my next series of articles, I’ll provide specific steps for how to ask your employees to give you feedback and help establish a feedback culture on your team.
Do you ask your employees for feedback on how you manage the team? How do you do it? Has your manager ever asked you for feedback?