In my previous article, I discussed the common tendency for managers, in a feedback conversation, to give the secondary feedback to their employees, “You don’t take feedback well.” Perhaps you have experienced this scenario yourself: you receive feedback from your manager, and you react negatively in some capacity (perhaps by debating the feedback, or respond with emotion), only to be told, often in the same session, “You need to take feedback better.” I argue in my previous article that this reveals the manager
a) is willing to distract away from the original intent of the feedback conversation, and whether the feedback is actually incorporated
b) believes the feedback conversation would not or ought not surface a response
c) is interested in protecting his or her ego.
There are more things that “you need to take feedback better” reveals about the manager. Here they are:
1. It probably means that the either manager or employee or both together are new to the feedback conversation process
When a manager gives feedback to an employee, and the employee reacts negatively, this is probably a sign that the whole performance feedback process is new to either the manager, the employee or both together, which are all highly likely situations. It should be expected that initial performance conversations will be wrought with defensiveness, excuses, emotion, and other reactions. That is, they will be clunky. But if the tandem keep working on it, and try to have performance conversations over time, they will both get used to the process and stay increasingly focused on the performance and the desired outcomes.
It should be expected that the more the manager and employee do something (in this case, have feedback conversations), the better they will be at it over time. Isn’t this true on just about every other activity? When the manager feels like the (initial) conversation isn’t going well – this should be the default understanding: “We’ll keep working at getting better at this,” rather than immediately assert that the “taking feedback” part is an inimitable defect in the employee. So to you managers out there, don’t be surprised when the first time you do something it isn’t perfect.
Perhaps the most common “performance feedback” is, “You need to take performance feedback better.” I’d say about 90% of all employees in the world fear this “feedback.” That’s because performance feedback of this nature is inherently unfair, and it isn’t performance feedback anyway. Let’s take a look at why this is so.
The context for the dreaded, “You don’t take feedback well” is usually during a feedback session to an employee, and the employee reacts negatively in some way to the feedback. Some sample negative reactions by the employee may be the following:
–Saying, “I don’t agree with the feedback”
–Saying, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
–Saying, “I’ve never heard that feedback before.”
–Saying, “I tried really hard.”
–Saying, “You’re a terrible boss!”
–Shutting down, getting angry or otherwise reacting emotionally
In each of these cases, the employee is reacting to the feedback in a way that makes it uncomfortable to the manager providing the feedback. Then the manager may, at that instance, or in a second feedback session, say, “You need to take performance feedback better.”
OK, manager – this is more “feedback” to the employee, but it is not performance feedback. And managers should consider refraining from giving this “feedback” for the following reasons: