Deal fairly with feedback

Most of us think about communication as a face-to-face process of exchanging information. Communication, however, can occur on different lindalevels, and sometimes it may be anonymous.

This happens when managers undergo 360-degree performance-feedback. Generally, they ask their subordinates to complete a form that assesses leadership abilities and communication styles. Sometimes individuals also have the ability to write in anonymous comments. Anonymity is important in order to encourage openness and honesty. Subordinates will not participate (at least honestly) if they feel their remarks can be traced back to them.

One of the key benefits of this type of appraisal is that the manager can see how others perceive him/her: Is he a good communicator? Does she help subordinates grow? Is he too demanding and overbearing? Does she micro-manage? Does he share his vision of the organization? Is she someone who can be trusted?

Managers can learn a lot from 360-degree appraisals. But these appraisals have drawbacks. The principle one is that if the organization  of subordinates is too small, it is not possible to protect the anonymity of respondents. And that could be bad.

If you think using a 360-degree appraisal would benefit you, first ask yourself:

  • “How delicate is my ego?” Quite frankly, I’ve had many bosses over the years, and I could probably count on two fingers the number who were confident enough to receive feedback from their employees. Most had egos so delicate they could be deflated with a pinprick.

  • “Will I get honest feedback?” If not, don’t waste your time. And you won’t get honest feedback if only a few people are involved in giving you feedback.

  • “Can I ‘take’ what I learn?” Think about the way you react when someone close to you criticizes you. If you get defensive and overreact, maybe you aren’t ready for a 360-degree assessment.

  • “If I guess who said something negative about me — especially something I don’t agree with — can I still work with this person objectively? Or will I hold a grudge?” That’s an important question, and a hard one to answer. But it’s not fair to put employees in a position of giving feedback then retaliating against them for being honest. (And it may also be illegal!)

It’s important for you to give your employees feedback about their performance, and ideally, they should feel comfortable enough with you to give you feedback, too. So, if you aren’t already getting that feedback, maybe the lack of feedback IS feedback! Think about it. Then deal with that reality. Work on developing an environment that rewards genuineness, honesty, and caring — making sure those traits are demonstrated in your office first. Employees will always have an opinion about you and your leadership. If they feel good about the organization you have created, they will share their opinions with you. If they don’t feel good about the organization,  they will still share their opinions — only it won’t be with you.

Until next time,
Linda Segall
Segall Enterprises: Writing and Editing Solutions

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