Leadership

My co-workers never give me feedback (& here’s why!)

Henk Veenhuysen
by Henk Veenhuysen
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As a manager, you obviously don’t mind giving feedback to your people. But what about the other way around? Of course, in essence you will know quite well what your strengths and weaknesses are, but there are always some blind spots. Hard to address those if you don’t know them.

1. Getting feedback is a necessity

Without external awareness (becoming more aware of the impact of your actions), it is not easy to address and improve your habits or behaviors that may be a barrier.

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So that’s simple; just ask your employees what they think of you and how they perceive you. How else do you find out how you are doing as a leader?

You’ve probably already noticed that your employees are a tad reluctant to give feedback. They may even find it scary…. despite the fact that you said: “The door is always open.”

You may also have tried it by asking at the end of a bilateral conversation “And do you have any feedback for me?” Chances are you saw all sorts of evasive maneuvers. It’s about the worst way to get feedback.

2. Five objections to giving feedback and what you can do

Time to address this! I’ve listed 5 common objections to giving feedback to your supervisor, including helpful ways to overcome those objections. This will give you the feedback and insights you need, to strengthen your role as a leader.

1. Are you, at all, open to feedback?

Employees know by now that giving feedback to each other, within the team is possible. It may not always succeed but it is expected. Giving feedback upward, to your supervisor is less obvious. Often, as a supervisor, you have to explicitly ask for it so that it is clear to them that it can be done at all. (And how about yourself: can you as a manager handle feedback well? Or do you just find that difficult).

What can you do? Don’t just tell your employees that you are open to feedback but say that you want and expect it. Your story is that self-development is an important thing for you. And that you need the help/feedback of the other person (your co-worker) to flesh out the path of your personal development. So clearly state your motivation for receiving feedback.

2. “Am I doing it right?”

Giving good feedback is something not everyone is naturally good at. Obviously, you can learn it, but it takes some time. Employees who are not trained in giving feedback are sometimes worrying about “if they are doing it right.” Rather they don’t do it then because they feel insecure about it.

What can you do? tell your employees that giving feedback is like training your muscles for, say, a marathon. The more you do it the better it goes. Offer yourself as a ‘guinea pig’ so they can practice their feedback skills.

Add that ‘whether or not they do it well’ is no objection to you and that you appreciate their attempt to do it. Perhaps you could also bring the following to their attention. When you learn something, you go through 4 stages:

  1. Unconsciously incompetent: I don’t know that I can’t do it.
  2. Consciously incompetent: now I know I can’t do it very well yet
  3. Consciously competent: now I know how to do it well
  4. Unconsciously competent: now I’m doing it right without thinking about it.

Tip: Saying something nice or kind when they give feedback works wonders, of course.

3. Well, it’s my boss, I’ll watch my back.

No need to beat around the bush; as a manager, you obviously have a lot of influence. You are in a position where you have the ability to determine an employee’s future. Think salary, training, promotion, etc.

Your position as a manager can keep your employees from giving feedback. They will carefully consider and reconsider before they give you targeted feedback. By the way, it is not just that you are in a position of power but also cultural barriers can play a role in employees avoiding feedback to their supervisor.

What can you do? Start by showing a little empathy and genuine humility. Be open about being in that position of influence; take the bull by the horns and say something like:

‘I realize very well that giving feedback to me is perhaps not easy. I had some of the same hesitations about giving feedback to my supervisor.’

And then you can reassure your employee by saying:

‘giving feedback is an important part of every employee’s professional competencies. After all, you can’t easily develop or change if you don’t get information from your environment.’

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4. Mmm… can I really say that?

Of course, as a manager, you may be triggered when you receive feedback. You too are only human 😉 This can happen and especially if the feedback comes out a bit rusty from the employee’ s mouth. Your employee may feel hampered if they are concerned about the impact the feedback will have on your feelings and on the relationship.

What can you do? You can start by telling something about yourself. Break the ice by first showing some self-reflection and giving feedback to yourself. Looks something like this:

‘I know from myself that I think methodical work is important. As a result, everything can slow down at times. My “handicap” is that I naturally choose accuracy rather than speed. I did have feedback on that at times when a deadline was coming up. I want to get better at that.

So feel free to be the first to admit your own mistakes. With that, you can pave the way to give your employee the space to say what is needed. For example, inviting him/her with a question like, “What could I become stronger at to make your job easier?

5. Pfft, no point in saying anything anyway

Giving feedback to your supervisor can already be challenging. This, of course, gets worse when nothing is done with it. It gnaws at your co-workers confidence. Employees will have doubts about your sincerity and reliability.

What can you do? Clearly state what you will do with the feedback. for example:

  1. Thanks for sharing this with. I’m not sure I can do anything about it directly because…..(good and reasoned argument)
  2. What you tell me now helps me very much. I want to address that and this is my plan ….

And all the variations in between these two examples. Of course you may think about it for a while. Don’t wait too long to give a proper response as to what you will do with the feedback.

3. Take your time and create an organic process

One more thing: of course, you may think you’ve done everything you can to create a safe setting to get feedback from your employees. Yet people may remain hesitant to give feedback to their supervisor, for example, because they have had a bad experience.

My suggestion: create an organic process with small informal steps in which you take the time to organize your feedback. That’s important to (continue to) grow as an executive. By leading by example and having the skills to have a good conversation you set the tone for an open feedback culture.

Free introductory call,

Run into a lack of assertiveness or self-confidence?

Want to get rid of that, once and for all? Then my 1-on-1 coach approach is really something for you. Lets get acquainted first, no strings attached. See if we have a 'click' and if I can help you.

> Schedule your free call now

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