Insights on Navigating Feedback Sessions – Part 1
Updated: Feb 27, 2021
Feedback in the workplace is always a controversial topic. Some believe that it is a powerful tool for growth and advancement. Others argue that human evaluation is unreliable and clouded by the raters own understanding of the evaluation criteria, including how harsh or lenient each one of us is and our own inherent or unconscious biases. What most people agree on is that giving and receiving feedback is a challenge.
With many people working at a distance, the current work conditions bring additional pressure regarding feedback. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, stress levels have increased, and research shows that chronic stress is correlated with stronger negativity bias, which shapes how people hear feedback. Receiving constructive feedback may be even harder than usual.  Managers need to learn to navigate these circumstances.
Despite all the controversy about feedback effectiveness and the current changes in the work settings, leaders are frequently giving employee feedback on their performance. In part one of this two-part series, I will share important insights gained from numerous feedback sessions with members of my team, both in formal and informal circumstances.
Build trust in your everyday interactions with your employees Trust is the catalyst that enhances teamwork and collaboration, improves efficiency, engagement, and productivity. It also decreases stress and burnout, increases loyalty and retention, among other fundamental impacts. Trust is the result of our everyday efforts! Managers need to be consistent, use good judgement, and build positive relationships, three factors that drive trust in leadership, according to a recent HBR study. In the absence of trust, feedback can be a catalyst for stress and self-doubt. A successful feedback session is the result of a lot of effort in relationship and trust-building in your everyday work.
Be empathic and recognize this is a vulnerable moment for employees For some employees, this moment is a source of enormous tension, and they are often defensive and reactive. Others see a lot of value in listening and understanding how their contribution is perceived by the management team and their immediate manager. There are those who respect their leaders and see feedback as an opportunity for professional and personal growth. Others may not recognize their managers as leaders for different reasons, including lack of trust, and do not see the value of what is being said. Managers need to recognize these complexities and use empathy throughout the process.
Be mindful of the importance of self-assessment An essential part of the performance feedback ritual is self-assessment. As a leader, you need to contribute to your employees’ enhancement of self-awareness. Some employees underestimate their contribution, failing to recognize their strengths and overemphasizing their areas for improvement. Others see themselves as superheroes, excelling in every aspect of the assessment questionnaire, without a clear understanding of the importance of a deep and critical dive into their performance and professional characteristics. Some have a clearer understanding of the value they bring to the table and the areas they need to focus on improving. Leaders need to develop the ability to deal with different kinds of personalities and help them critically analyze their performance. By doing so, not only will the formal feedback event probably run more smoothly, but also giving everyday feedback will be easier. Managers need to learn to navigate the challenge of providing constructive feedback.
Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
 Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). The feedback fallacy. Harvard Business Review, 97(2), 92-101.  Huston, T. (2021). Giving critical feedback is even harder remotely. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from Giving Critical Feedback Is Even Harder Remotely (hbr.org) 02/21/2021.  Martic, K. (2020). Trust in the Workplace: Why It Is so Important Today and How to Build It. Retrieved from Trust in the Workplace: Why It Is so Important Today and How to Build It (smarp.com) 02/21/2021.  Zenger, J., & Folkman, J. (2019). The 3 elements of trust. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from The 3 Elements of Trust (hbr.org) 02/21/2021.