Feedback Sucks. Here’s Why.

Katrina Kibben Leadership, Learning and Development, Managing People 4 Comments

Why do you think most people struggle so much with feedback at work? 

My first guess? Social media. We’ve evolved from a world where you could go days without speaking to anyone into a land where likes are the equivalent of Valentines in the 2nd grade. 

Every. Single. Day. Endorphins galore.

But the likes aren’t the problem. It’s how social media has set us up so that one negative comment can destroy us. With the constant influx of thumbs-ups and hearts, it’s easy to forget any lurkers disagree until they start a fight with you on Twitter. 

Feedback Is Inevitable (And Sucky) At Work

My second theory is far more universal: No one asks for feedback in the first place, especially at work. We want to fly under the radar, do the job, and do it well—ideally, the first time. 

We so rarely get to request or prepare for feedback. When feedback is delivered poorly, we feel assaulted. We don’t get to steady ourselves before these big blows. Nope. Instead, it’s a sneak attack. A mysterious line on the meeting agenda. Surprise 1-1’s without explanation. 

Moments like that chip away at our confidence at work. A look. A comment. Even the most powerful people are paralyzed by feedback fear at work; the consequences are too significant. 

Success at work is too vital to our survival, self-worth, and purpose. We want it all to mean something. No, we need it to mean something. 

Feedback poorly delivered chips away at that meaning we need so badly from work. It chips away at the belief that a job could ever be a place where we chase joy, not a dollar. That work could be a place where we can fulfill dreams, not just check the boxes. 

When I worked for a big organization, I felt the feedback panic all the time. Still today, feedback is hard for me. I get my feelings hurt a lot. I try to find the meaning and the truth I need to learn, but inevitably negative comments sting. I find myself wishing that people would be more considerate. That they would remember I’m a human, too, when they tell me what to think. 

But to my point about feedback earlier, no one asked me. 

So, here’s my question for you. How do you make feedback a session someone feels prepared to handle? How do you make it an experience that doesn’t make a person’s self-worth decline?

Comments 4

  1. Very thought provoking Katrina! I have to be honest and say I’m not sure I do a very good job at preparing my team for feedback and can actually think of a couple recent instances in which I am sure I created the scenario you described. At the time, I had my manager hat on, believing that I am doing my job addressing employee performance concerns; unfortunately without much thought as to how the employee is going to receive it. Thank you for reminding me!

  2. Great post Katrina, and good question. In my experience feedback is best served two-way. Not only do I get to provide feedback to you, but I ask for feedback as well. If I deliver balanced feedback with the intent to help you improve, you’re likely to return the favor. Then feedback can become a dialogue about helping each other get better, rather than an opportunity to blind-side someone with feedback that damages and doesn’t help them improve.

  3. This is a great topic! Feedback is always hard for supervisors because a lot of people do not like to be the “bad guy”. I try to get them to understand when giving feedback it’s not about being the bad guy it’s about delivering the truth and giving a person a reasonable chance to get better or do the right thing. When giving feedback that may be bad, I always incorporate good things as well so that it is not all bad. Also, I will tell them the purpose of the feedback is to get them better on a specific area or areas.

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