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It’s not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear that helps you perform better. I’ve uttered this statement so many times. Yet I was apprehensive when it came to giving and receiving feedback. The process of giving and asking for feedback is one of the most important things anyone can do to improve performance personally and professionally. Based on my experiences, most people do not like to be on either end of a formal performance conference.

There are three reasons for discomfort: lack of knowledge, skill and confidence to conduct them. An underlying unspoken issue is vulnerability. According to Brene’ Brown vulnerability is the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Anxiety increases with the distance between performance appraisal conferences and the degree of formality. For example, If feedback is only given every six to twelve months both the reviewer and reviewee, might not have gotten much sleep the night before. A lot happens over a six to 12-month period. An obvious way to decrease the discomfort is to provide performance feedback more often. But before doing so, it is important to understand why and how to give it.

When I became a first level supervisor, I was given the performance appraisal form and instructed to conduct performance reviews. It seemed pretty straightforward; rate the person on a scale of 1 to 5 on ten items. Well, it wasn’t that simple. Have you ever given a subordinate high marks on 8 of 10 items and a fair or needs improvement on two? In many cases, they over react on the two where work is needed, giving little attention to the area where they were rated highly.

Knowledge is power. I didn’t know about a phenomenon called “negative bias”. It takes anywhere between 5 to 10 positive comments to equal one negative. According to Kendra Cherry, negativity bias is our tendency to register negative stimuli more readily and dwell on them more. Making it clear that a person’s performance is being evaluated not the person. It’s a focus on what someone does, not who they are. There are a lot of things I do well, but singing isn’t one of them, but I’m still a good person.

If the appraiser lacks the knowledge and skill to convey the correct message, they will lose confidence. They will refrain from giving the feedback that will help the subordinates grow. If subordinates continue to perform in a substandard manner, but their reviews are stellar, it will be more difficult to take corrective action down the road.

Can you imagine an organization where subordinates knew exactly what their supervisors were going to say in the formal performance appraisal conference? Do you work in an organization like that? If not, what can be done in your organization to make that possible. I would like to get your feedback. Next week I will discuss the performance appraiser toolkit in more detail. Stay tuned. Change your thoughts, change your destiny!


Sources: Giving and Receiving Feedback: An interpersonal Skill, Phillip G Hanson; What is the Negativity Bias? Kendra Cherry and Dare to Lead, Brene’ Brown