To become more effective and fulfilled at work, we need to understand our impact on others and the extent to which we are actually achieving our goals in our working relationships. The most efficient way to do so is with interpersonal direct feedback, which means being clear, straightforward, and specific in your communication.
Feedback is an integral part many things we deal with on a daily basis: speedometers, exams, meetings, smiles, second dates… all give us feedback on how we are doing. Hence, feedbacks decrease our stress levels as they provide us with a direction instead of just “throwing darts in the dark”.
So far so good, right?
Here comes the “tricky” part: being open to receiving feedback – especially when it is a critical one – is often not as easy as it sounds.
Often times, we only keep in our network colleagues who see our positive qualities. In fact, as Francesca Gino and Paul Green of Harvard Business School, and Brad Staats of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered in their recent research (2017), many of us tend to push away people who give us feedback that is more critical and negative than our view of ourselves, i.e. “disconfirming” feedback, because it is perceived as a threat to our self-concept. This study shows that employees are 44% more likely to drop the relationship with the colleague who gave him or her a critical feedback.
After all, why would you ever want to keep in your life someone who brings you down?
Well, here’s a valid reason: the same research revealed that cutting out those colleagues of your life, actually leads to decreases in performance in the long-run. In this scenario, we are likely to do a poor job at evaluating our own performance.
Falling in love with our own ideas is human, but it also prevents us from seeing reality: getting too attached to what you want can blind you to feedback that tries to help you see what “is”.
As Forbes claims, criticism helps you grow and improve yourself and it could be the key to success. Many of us take it as personal attack and get defensive, instead of seeing it through a lens of personal responsibility.
According to Alexander Kjerulf, author and speaker on happiness at work, the best attitude to receive negative feedback is to actually listen to what is being said and be proactive by expressing what you have learned and what you will do differently from now on, instead of making excuses or create a barrier between you and the other person.
Not only does critical feedback strengthen your job performance, but it also helps you build a more productive relationship with your colleagues.
Bad engagement is really expensive
The last thing companies want is to have disengaged employees, trust me. Why? Gallup estimates disengaged employees cost the U.S economy up to $500 billion in lost productivity per year: they waste the company’s time, as well as their own. Just think about it – if a team has injured players, it cannot go full speed.
A way to prevent injuries (i.e. disengagement) is by giving employees constant feedbacks as, according to a Officevibe research, 4 out of 10 workers claim to feel disengaged when they get little or no feedback.
On the other end of the spectrum, according to the same research, 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week compared to only 18% of employees with low engagement. Sometimes you just get what you give.
Hence, adopting an engaged culture characterized by constant feedback and high levels of involvement, improves the overall company’s performance. According to Forbes, for instance, organizations that implement this type of culture experience 26% less employee turnover, 15% greater employee productivity, and 30% greater customer satisfaction levels.
Large companies drop annual performance reviews
As the New Yorker points out, several big companies, such as Microsoft, GAP and Adobe, have dropped their annual performance review, replacing it with more frequent ones. They found that annual performance reviews were costly and not effective, as they often only took into account the most recent developments instead of looking at the entire year and focused on the past instead of considering what employees should do going forward. After all, if it is hard to remember what we had for dinner last night, how can we possibly remember what we said in that presentation six months ago?
Feedback, on the other hand, creates a working environment that is more forward-thinking. Establishing and maintaining an open dialogue, where both “positive” and “negative” feedback is implemented, improves your engagement as an employee and ultimately your company’s success.
In conclusion: if a person is sharing “negative” feedback with you, it is a sign they care about the growth and trajectory of your career; perhaps even more than those who just praise you. Tough feedback might be uncomfortable and get you out of your comfort zone but try to look at it as a positive learning opportunity, rather than a personal attack. Here’s the motto: live it, learn it, embrace it.