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What’s the most unhelpful feedback you have received?

‘If you want to be taken seriously as a manager, you need to be less girly’ is the most unhelpful feedback I ever received. Not only was it tied up with my gender, it was also so unspecific it gave me nothing to work on.

I had my hair cut shorter and wore my skirts longer. But clearly that wasn’t what the person (a woman) was trying to tell me.

Any feedback worth having tends to be challenging. But you don’t want it to destabilise a person’s sense of self.

As Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall say in their HBR article ‘The Feedback Fallacy’, feedback often doesn’t get the result we intend.

‘The arguments for radical candor and unvarnished and pervasive transparency have a swagger to them … that as leaders our ability to look our colleagues squarely in the eye and lay out their faults without blinking is a measure of our integrity.’ This was written in 2019, and we’ve learned a lot since then.

Neuroscience teaches us that we learn best in a climate of psychological safety. ‘We excel only when people who know us and care about us tell us what they experience and what they feel, and in particular when they see something within us that really works.’

So, there are two important ingredients in there. The trust within the relationship with the person, and their ability to give us something that we can build on.

Feedback without that? ‘At worst, it’s toxic’. We’ve all been there.

People in HR get a lot of feedback. It tends to be unstructured, out of context, and often tainted by experiences that are more to do with their manager than with HR. Do you just suck it up? Or is it a symptom of something that you can actually fix?

We’ve developed a neat process for HR to get feedback from stakeholders, constructively, and to move collaboratively towards strategic alignment with the business and build stronger partnerships. Contact us to find out more.

What’s the most – or least – useful feedback you ever had?

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