Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"Stop Hounding Me" and other Feedback Phrases

I received a preview issue (snail mail hard copy) of "Team Management Briefings" from briefings.com. This is one of those newsletters that provides little blurbs of information excerpted or adapted from other publications. It had some interesting tidbits of info related to management, goal setting, motivation and teamwork.

One item that caught my eye was related to feedback. It suggested finding out what your team members (or presumably your staff) think of you by circulating a list of phrases and asking each team member to circle the three that they would most like you to do. It included things like:

- Give me a pat on the back once in awhile
- Stop hounding me
- Stop yelling
- Stop trying to prove to me how smart you are
- Stop talking down to me
- Smile once in awhile

While I like the idea of feedback, I don't see employees or team mates being comfortable enough to share this kind of information with their leader. I also am not so sure that most leaders would be able to handle hearing this information from their subordinates.

There were a few items on the list that would be less emotion provoking such as:

- Let me know what's going on with management
- Train me
- Give me a challenge

I suspect that most employees when forced to choose would select these non-combative types of responses.

Unfortunately while exercises such as this have great intentions, they are just not realistic in terms of getting real feedback. I was naive enough many years ago when I was a new manager to try and get similar feedback to this. I can remember putting together a little survey and asking my staff to provide me with feedback on how they were doing, what I could do to better support them, what they needed from me to help them be successful. Even with such benign questions I rarely got much actionable information.

The challenge with employee feedback is recognizing that employees have (or feel they have) a lot on the line when they are asked to share their concerns about supervisors, management or the company. It's not easy to solicit this feedback in a way that will produce useful, honest information. This is one of the reasons why I am such a believer in exit interviews. When the employee has less to lose (for he's already leaving), he can feel safe to share honest and useful feedback. It's not uncommon to see the kinds of phrases listed above in the comments sections of exit interviews. I'm afraid though that circulating the list to current staff won't yield much in the way of real information.

According to the briefing, the above was adapted from This Job Should Be Fun! by Bob Basso and Judi Klosek. Maybe Bob or Judi can shed some light on this subject and correct me if my guesses are wrong.

Beth C.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem I have with this type of canned feedback is that it is yet another cop out to avoid confrontation. All it does is make the employee look like he is too chicken to state his opinions directly to your face so he has to resort to sending a note like girls in grade school. And the choices are useless. Like I care that my staff wants me to smile more or pat their backsides!

What I care about and want to hear from my staff is what is preventing them from doing their assignments? How can I help them become more productive? And I want to hear it in person, as scary as that may seem to these psychologists who pump out these safe techniques to avoid involvement. It is not that scary to speak openly and face to face with your boss. That is how you build a better working relationship. But if you must pass notes, atleast make them relevant to your work and not to your feelings.

1:54 PM, October 19, 2004  
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