In an article last week, I started a series on how managers receive feedback on their own performance. Most managers don’t actively solicit performance feedback, let alone from their employees, and as a result, the default moment that a manager receives feedback as a manager is when someone quits. As performance feedback, it fails. But what about when a bunch of people quit over a period of time? That has to say something about a manager, doesn’t it?
It does! But there are problems, and as a design for getting information to the manager so that they can change their behaviors, it fails. Here’s why:
Attrition rates = slow, lagging data: Many companies’ HR departments will track attrition rates for managers or divisions within the company. They may even divide attrition between “good attrition” (lower performing or problematic employees who leave) and “bad attrition” (high performing employees who leave). This is excellent information, since it can give visibility to the HR department and the management team where the best and worst rates are in the organization. They can then do a study to identify what is being done in the “high good attrition/low bad attrition” areas, and vice versa. Then they can identify the teams and organizations that are having the most problems, and then work on finding ways to change the behaviors, and try to implement a program that improves the areas where the bad attrition is the highest and good attrition is the lowest. Then they can measure the new “good and bad” attrition rates and see if there has been improvement. . .
My two previous blog posts have been about “public feedback.” Public feedback is the commonly observed phenomenon where a manager tries to correct the behavior of a few individuals through mass-communication channels such as email or a large-group meeting. Common examples are, “We have a dress code” or “We need to stop the gossiping.” In my first blog post on the subject, I describe how this doesn’t change – or even makes worse – the behavior of the people who are behaving incorrectly. In my second post on the subject, I describe the impact on those who are actually behaving correctly (it throws them out of whack).
OK, so it doesn’t work with the people who you are targeting, and it messing up with the people you aren’t targeting. But what about you, the manager? It messes you up too!
When giving public feedback, the manager is trying to take a shortcut and address several performance issues at once. We’ve already established that it doesn’t work, so that should be enough. Here’s how this short cut plays out. Read more
In my previous post, I described some examples where a manager tries to give “public feedback” in an effort to change the behaviors of a few people through mass communication. The communication may be efficient, but the outcomes are not there, and could actually make things worse. Today, I discuss four more reasons why public feedback is rife with unintended consequences.
“Public Feedback” is when a manager notices or learns something he or she doesn’t like on the part of a few, and instead of addressing it with those individuals, addresses it with the entire team. Three simple examples are:
1) Employees not following a dress code. Manager: “Reminder to everyone: Follow the dress code.”
2) Employees late on their status reports. Manger: “Everyone, I need the status report by end of week, no exceptions.”
3) Employees gossiping. Manager: “I will not tolerate gossiping from anyone.”
A quirk that many managers have is the willingness to provide feedback publically. That is, the manager will identify something that is going wrong on the team, and then tell the entire team to stop doing that. An example is, say, one or two people are violating the dress code. The manager sends an email to the entire organization (let’s say, 100 people) stating, “As a reminder, we have a strict dress code, and all people in the organization are expected to adhere to it.” Another example is that someone on the team is habitually late with status reports. The manager writes an email to the entire team stating, “I would like status reports by end of day Friday, no exceptions.” Here’s a third example: One or two people have been to gossiping about the latest re-orgs being planned. At a team meeting, the manager says, “There’s a lot of gossip going around about a potential re-org. I will not tolerate this, as there is no information about this to discuss.”
This is what I call “Public Feedback.” The manager is attempting to correct behavior by telling everyone on the team to stop doing what a small segment is doing. This doesn’t work, and may make things worse here’s why: Read more