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Why are your team members reluctant to give feedback?

One of my clients recently told me that he was enthusiastic about giving and receiving feedback when he first joined the company. However, that enthusiasm slowly declined as he observed the outcomes of giving his feedback might have backfired.

Specifically, in his scenario, his department did not realize its full potential as there was no clear performance measures for every role in the department. As a result, most of the team members were very confused and felt mistreated during the period of performance assessment. Many thought that only those who had excellent relationship with their superior would received favourable assessment. The situation was very demoralizing.

During his 1:1 session with his superior, he shared his observation about the state of the department. He highlighted that everyone in the department was in dire need of clear performance measures in order to execute effectively. He also emphasized that clarity on performance measures for every role would help them during the period of performance assessment. His superior appeared to take the feedback and promised that specific actions would have been taken.

Six months later, they were still operating in the same manner. And his superior had just been busy “fire fighting” on a daily basis. His 1:1 sessions with his superior had dramatically reduced in terms of both, frequency and length of time.

Ever since that incident, he hardly gave any constructive feedback to his superior.

He summarized his key learning as that employees will be reluctant to give feedback when:

  1. They lose trust of the “system” (feedback system): They will lose trust of the “system” when no action is taken upon receipt of feedback.
  2. They fear that their feedback might have negative repercussion: For example, their superior may not take the feedback well or certain feedback may impact them during their performance appraisal.

Key relevant questions that worth considering for your department are:

  1. Is your working environment “feedback friendly”?
  2. Are you and your team members comfortable at giving and receiving feedback?
  3. Do you (as a manager) deliberately create an environment that is conducive to giving and receiving feedback?
  4. Do you have clarity on how success looks like for you as well as your team members?

I will write a few posts in the near future in addressing the four questions above.

In the meantime, have you ever been in the same situation my client experienced before?