I once worked in an organisation that was big on feedback. It was hardcore. We had a manager join us from another company and when it came to the annual appraisal, she posed the work equivalent of, “does my bum look big in this?”. She asked,
“Is there anything that you think I need to know? That I could be doing better?”
Two weeks later, she was a shaking wreck on the floor. Admitting to me, “I didn’t actually want them to tell me!”.
And that’s the thing. We live in a feedback culture, but so much of the feedback is utterly pointless. I can’t order a product now without getting a request to rate the service, the packaging or the lumbar posture of the delivery person. But does any of this matter, does anyone care and does it make any difference?
I’m no role model here. I’m the guy that reacted to the feedback that I was “low in empathy” by responding, “Do I give a sh*t what they feel?”, but it strikes me that there are two types of reaction to feedback.
Active and inactive.
Yes, it’s as simple as that.
Either do something with it, or don’t bother asking. Don’t make the people sweat it over how to break it to you that you’re a closet Nazi, unless you’re willing to change your ways. Don’t make them lose sleep over how to tell you that you have personal space issues unless you’re willing to…..take a step back.
So before you go through the motion and commission that 360, before you ask those poor suckers that have to work with you what they feel, before you go through the motions…..ask yourself this:
What is the worst thing that I could hear that would really upset me? And would I be willing to accept and act on it, if I heard it said?
Feedback is important. Feedback is a gift. But it can also be the silent, smelly fart in the elevator.
Ask if you want to know. Don’t ask if you don’t.
But never just pretend you care.