There is something about feedback and the human psyche that puzzles me. Consider a motley bunch of people, pretty much the same age and same educational qualification, but very different upbringing. And if one does an appropriate analysis, each person would respond differently to the kind of feedback they get. When I talk about the kind of feedback, I am not referring to the good or bad aspect, but rather to the honesty of the feedback.
I’d like to talk about myself ( like I have been doing all these years) when it comes to feedback. I am no expert, but when asked for feedback, I believe the best way to give it is to be open and honest, lay the cards on the table and call a spade a spade. This may be a habit I’ve developed from the sort of background and upbringing I’ve had, where openness was the order of the day. If I am no good, I would be told so. Hence, even if I do a good job, and someone compliments me, I don’t take them seriously. Unfortunately, this trickles over into the way I give feedback.
All though some people say I am quite the wizard when it comes to words, there is something about feedback that prevents me from sugar-coating and mincing stuff. Now, don’t go about thinking I’m the prissy moron who will only talk about the faults or shortcomings, for I am no expert myself, but then that part of the feedback will be as it is. In my mind, it is disrespectful if you can’t be honest with a person when they ask you about feedback. I don’t think I have come across any Narcissists who want feedback and want only the good stuff. That isn’t voluntary feedback. If you were good, people will automatically come up to you and tell you that you were good. It is that simple.
Why this comes out of the blue is, one of the classmates had overheard me giving feedback to another friend and thought I was very blunt and rude and has warned me that one day I am going to get beaten up for giving feedback the way I did. Obviously, they don’t know me too well. I do the beating up when required. ( Don’t worry….belligerence has been left back in class 8) Anyway, I have been told to sugar-coat feedback and drive home the point. If it is driving home the point that is the objective, why not call a spade a spade. Nothing drives home the point better than the truth. I know, the truth is a total bitch and it sucks hearing it. But then, it is far better than sugar coating it and presenting it. I’d rather go, “ Dude, I felt you didn’t do this well enough. You need to work on it this way”. Rather than say stuff like” Dude! Good job, very well done, definite scope for improvement.” A major problem with this approach is that, there are people who don’t understand sarcasm or the subliminal meaning when you sugar-coat stuff, and that is doing them a great disservice as they may misinterpret your feedback thinking they were good. Just for the record, I got yelled at once in an open feedback session by a poor disgruntled ex-general manager. Needless to say, I keep sufficient distance, lest he use the Joker’s technique and make ‘a pencil disappear’.
Come to think of it, would you rather be told here at b-school that you’re not up to the mark, or would you go out there into the big bad world, all gung-ho armed with false impressions about yourself and lose out on a sales pitch of your company? I’d rather take the harder more painful route of the truth.