As many in the corporate world sit down to discuss goals for the coming year, the topic of feedback often arises as we review our previous performance. Feedback can be hard for everyone, whether you’re giving it or receiving it, a seasoned professional or new to the workforce. For some, there is a primal response that happens in the brain, triggering our fight, flight or freeze reactions.
How can we create a workplace culture that reduces fear and anxiety around feedback? It starts with building systems to retrain our brains and set the stage for more productive conversations.
3 types of feedback
One way to help prepare yourself to give or receive feedback is to understand what type of feedback is being discussed. In an episode of The Brave New Work podcast, hosts Aaron Dignan and Rodney Evans break down feedback by looking at it from three angles.
- Work product
- How I experience you
- How I live up to my role agreements
Discussing a work product is perhaps the easiest type of feedback because it isn’t personal. The focus is on the outcome, product, or work in progress. This type of feedback is often institutionalized through specific structured gatherings like after action reviews or post-mortems reviews. Most of the feedback we share at work should fall in this category.
How I experience you
Type 2, “how I experience you feedback” can be identified by asking the question ‘What is this person known for?’ This is a more complex area of sharing feedback because style, personality, and power dynamics come into play. For example, if your manager gives you feedback that you’re not showing up a certain way, your instinct may be to change, as their word has such an impact on your career development and trajectory. When discussing this type of feedback, it is critical to go slowly, structure conversations as an exchange, versus a one-way directive, and to ground this in observable behaviors. While cultural norms, which are rules or expectations of behavior and thoughts based on shared beliefs, can make this type of feedback easier to share, this often comes down to the health and strength of individual relationships.
How I live up to my role agreements
The last type of feedback is arguably the trickiest to give and receive. This isn’t about your style, or your work product but perhaps a blend of both. The focus is on the various hats you wear via the roles you play within your organization. For example, you could be a people manager, a delivery leader, and part of an internal committee. Often this type of feedback is the tradeoff we make between roles. If you are my direct report, you might not see what I do as part of an internal committee and vice versa. This is especially important to consider in the consulting industry, where our reporting manager is often not the person we report to daily on a project. Similar to the “how I experience you” feedback, these conversations are best had when there is established trust and an open dialogue to fully understand the scope of a person’s role.
The role of recognition
When you hear the word feedback, how many of you think about recognition? This is actually feedback too, we just typically associate feedback with a critical experience. Recognition makes people feel seen and valued and is an effective way to reinforce positive behaviors and can lead to building trust within the relationship.
Think about recognition and feedback as two sides of the same coin. The Brave New Work podcast, cites the following statistics as the ration of positive feedback to improvement feedback:
- 5:1 – High performing teams
- 3:1 – “Average” teams
- 1:1 – Underperforming teams
Recognizing others builds trust and a certain degree of ease as you’re creating a pattern of observing behaviors verbally. You can amplify this impact by seeking out feedback, creating a reciprocal relationship.
At Argano, this was one of the first areas we targeted to shift our culture to one that’s more feedback focused. We have an internal recognition program grounded in our core values that we call ASPIRE. Anyone can log into the online system and give a recognition based on observable behaviors, along with an organization-wide feed where you can see who is being recognized. This provides visibility for the entire company on who is being recognized and for what – you can also comment, and “boost” other peoples’ recognitions. There is also the added incentive of associating points with each recognition that are redeemable for gifts or company branded merchandise.
Early on in my career, I had a manager tell me, “Feedback is a gift. You can open it and receive it, regift it, or donate it.” Giving and receiving feedback doesn’t have to trigger a primal stress response! Whether it pertains to positive or negative feedback, adopting a mindset of curiosity and positive intent will help to disarm your defensiveness when receiving feedback and will ultimately make you and your company more successful.
Cassandra Rambo, Chief Experience Officer
Cassandra Rambo is the Chief Experience Officer for Argano, responsible for driving employee engagement across the organization. She works closely with the people and culture teams in implementing programs and initiatives for learning and development, enablement, performance management, diversity, and leadership. With a background in consulting and HR, Cassandra brings deep expertise in organizational design (OD), organizational effectiveness (OE), employee engagement strategies, change management, and talent development. She has extensive coaching experience with a focus on career transitions and leadership development.