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Misuse of feedback?




Once you let feedback loose in an organisation there is a period where people are trying  it on, getting used to it and seeing if everyone else is buying in just as much as them. In the early stages feedback can often be poorly done: too lengthy, softened too much in order to not offend, poorly timed, poorly delivered, emotionally delivered, and a whole host of other accidental failures. If you want feedback to thrive then you need to look beyond the early difficulties and encourage the good use and practice of feedback because, like anything else, it takes a bit of practice particular in the organisational setting where there are so many pitfalls.

The issues such as I mention above can be managed by…..yes, feedback as in: when you gave that feedback to me in public/with anger/without permission/the minute I had walked out of a tough meeting/three weeks later I felt that……. i.e. look beyond delivery issues to the feedback itself and see if the individual was living in the mode of ‘feedback as a gift or an aide to our work or our relationship’. If that was underpinning the words then reward them with acknowledgement but help them see the improvement opportunity.

The situations you can’t allow to thrive are where feedback isn’t feedback but a cover for something else e.g. ‘when you made those corrections to my work last week it gave me another couple of hours of work to do. In future I would prefer it if you didn’t change what I have written’. So it passes models such as SBI, PAI (Situation-Behaviour-Impact-Preffered Alternative-Impact) but does it qualify as feedback? Well the SBI is reasonable and had the problem been the late nature of the proposed corrections, or the fact that it wasn’t clear why the changes were made or that the word changes significantly altered the meaning of the proposal, then the request for more time in future/some insight as learning/or talk to me about it first would have been reasonable. But ‘don’t ever touch anything I write ever again’ is possibly not a reasonable request in the work setting where peer review, communication strategies and other such things make it normal for work to be looked at in many ways by many people.

This kind of ‘close-down’ feedback does need to be addressed as it does not pass the feedback test i.e. is the intent to help others grow, learn and develop?

If feedback such as this becomes frequent within the organisation (they got away with it then so can I) then the feedback culture you are aiming at goes rapidly backwards as even those who aim to practice feedback well are ignored before they have a chance to give their support in a positive way.

So give feedback on your organisation’s attempt at feedback to encourage good practice and close-down the close-downs.


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