by Ann Tardy, JD, CSP
According to research:
- 65% of employees want more feedback from their boss
- 72% believe their performance would improve if their boss offered more feedback
And yet feedback continues to be hijacked.
Why? Because, in spite of its enormous value, it can be confronting. Ultimately feedback reveals us to ourselves.
Consequently, people avoid asking for it, while bosses avoid giving it.
Why the antics? Because people assume all feedback is negative (even when it’s cleverly labeled “constructive”). And negative feedback feels critical and judgmental.
So what? Get thicker skin, right? Well, here’s the psychological skinny on criticism… the brain processes criticism as a threat to our survival. More specifically, when we are criticized, we cognitively feel the threat of being excluded from a group… even when the feedback is completely accurate.
So how can we offer the feedback that people want and need in order to grow, without triggering their fears of being excluded or ostracized?
Be a mirror.
A mirror offers a reflection. It allows people to see what they cannot see on their own: their face, their teeth, their hair, their outfit. All without the mirror’s judgment or criticism (unless you’re Snow White, of course).
As a boss, we can similarly help people see what they cannot see. We can offer a reflection of their actions, efforts, and behaviors that they might not be able to (or want to) see with their own eyes.
- Invite: “Would it help to hear my perspective?”
- Express: “I’m happy about… I’m worried about…”
- Reflect: “I’ve noticed… I’ve observed…”
- Involve: “What do you see?”
When we are committed to contributing to someone’s success, we can serve as their mirror by offering a valuable perspective, while mitigating the innate fears that criticism triggers.