Imagine this…You’re barely five months into the start of your career. And by start, I literally mean fresh out of college and still taking in all the nuances of what we know as Corporate America. As the months have progressed, you’ve noticed your workload slowly increasing and the oversight backing away. You’re getting the hang of things! Then boom: Annual reviews.
All your hard work is now to be documented on paper and the perceptions of others may sway your potential raise and promotion. The what ifs begin to formulate: What if I haven’t networked enough? What if my one grammar mistake from two months ago comes back to haunt me? Most importantly, how do people perceive me? However, why is it that those two words are what finally warrant those thoughts? Are we not always to wonder, to some degree, how we are perceived in our jobs? Should we not want to know if we’re actually good at our job? It all comes down to feedback. Feedback is a necessity – a matter of give and take. We must not only understand how to give it, but how to receive it. In my eight months in the career world, I’ve grown to thrive on feedback. Here are my top four takes on feedback.
- Feedback is Ongoing. The biggest myth surrounding feedback is that it should only occur once a year. However, it’s quite inefficient to seek, or give, a performance update without any background or context. Think about it: Barbara in marketing consistently turns in her projects late. This goes on for a year, and no one says a thing. Barbara thinks its part of the chill office culture. The year goes by and Barbara finally receives negative feedback about time management. She feels blindsided. Ongoing feedback provides the opportunity to continuously develop and track your skills. My personal goal is to seek feedback at least every three months. This gives me the chance to track my performance, goal set and catch any bad habits quickly. The average employee wants to improve, so why not make improvement year round?
- The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth. Speaking of ongoing feedback, we need to ensure the delivery is clear and concise. Feedback should not be sugarcoated with unnecessary niceties. Specificity is key! Meaningful feedback must address the following: the situation, the behavior, the impact and the future. Always remain respectful and allow the individual to ask questions for clarity or provide their perception. Allowing someone to understand the impact will often spark a urge for change, while discussing the future provides an opportunity to goal set together.
- Excuses, excuses, excuses. Receiving feedback can often cause a bit of anxiety and we may even want to act out in a reactive manner. It’s human nature to defend ourselves. However, we must remember perception. Although our intentions may have been well thought out, our actions can be seen otherwise. When we receive feedback, we must listen actively and ask questions. Be appreciative to the feedback and then allow yourself to decide if it’s worthwhile to implement into your life. If so, reach out to those who provided you with the feedback with your goals, or simply check in after a couple weeks or month to see your progress. Taking an understanding approach will go much farther than hostility.
- Positivity is Key. It’s a terrible myth that feedback can only address the negative. If I work with a colleague on a project or sit through a well done training, it’s almost a must to provide feedback. “Toby, I appreciated your diligence to complete the Excel spreadsheet and review the formulas in such a timely manner”. As simple as that. No, we don’t need to shower our colleagues with compliments, but a job well done should be commended. Employees often work more than eight hours a day, more time than they may spend with their families, recognition will make someone’s day and increase morale.
Time for the cliché end quote: Feedback is a gift. As corny as it sounds, I’ve learned it to be true. Feedback is my guide to improve myself as a professional (try it for your personal life, too!). Think of feedback as your personal data bank. Each piece of feedback is a record to your progression. Not to mention, those who actively seek self-development for themselves, and others, are looked at as engaged, self-starters and team players. Who doesn’t want someone like that on their team?
Let’s keep the discussion going. What are your thoughts on feedback?