5 ways managers can get honest feedback
One of the most frequent grievances of managers is that they don’t have much feedback from their people. And even if they do, it is often filtered and not always honest. In fact, employees are sometimes even afraid to offer constructive feedback just out of fear of repercussions. That's why our people science team offered an insight into the reasoning and some proven tactics for eliciting genuine & honest feedback from your people.
Every time I ask them if they have anything to add regarding me, they say ‘nothing’
Let's try to take a closer look at this situation. At the end of a 1-on-1 or a team meeting, the manager asks the question in the last few minutes: "And do you have anything for me?" It it often combined with several other questions: “Is there something that doesn't suit you that you need done differently? … “. Afterwards, the manager is visibly relieved when the other parties react with considerable awkwardness: "Not really, no" or shrugging and shaking their heads. The manager then quickly concludes the conversation: "Good, so ...".
First of all, kudos to the manager for even asking for feedback. In fact, almost 40% of managers never do. If we deconstruct the scenario, there is multiple points we can build upon.
On top of that, it’s good to be aware that feedback is a relatively demanding discipline even for managers who have usually been trained in it. It isn’t easy for them to give truly good praise and constructive criticism. Few people enjoy or find it easy to give negative feedback. And this is with the manager having support in his role and in the skills acquired; so how is an ordinary untrained employee supposed to handle it.
It doesn’t help that the general population of managers is more vigorous and assertive than "non-managers" (which is often why they become managers). Giving them feedback from the root of the matter and from the role of a subordinate is not entirely easy.
What’s more, those who have tried have not always had strictly positive experiences:
What does this imply? If you really want honest feedback from your people, there's a couple of things to keep in mind:
1 | By failing to prepare, you're preparing to fail
Give your people the opportunity to prepare and think about how and what they would like to tell you. You should also prepare when you’re getting feedback ready for your people. "Springing" it on them without preparation will not get you any useful information. If you want to make it even easier for them, offer them a structure they can stick to. This will make the feedback richer and you’ll be better able to work with the information obtained.
2 | Time is a wonderful way to show what really matters to you
If you are serious about your people’s feedback, allow enough attention and time for it. If you include it in your 1-on-1 meeting, put it in the first part of the meeting or set aside a separate meeting for it. Definitely don't rush and give your people time to express themselves.
3 | Use methods that guarantee anonymity
It is very difficult for untrained people to give open eye-to-eye feedback. Especially to your superior. So, look for different ways to give feedback. For conventional people, written feedback can be a very convenient form. They don't have to worry about the immediate reaction or clumsiness in formulation. They can think about what they want to tell you and rewrite it several times until they are satisfied with the wording.
The online form makes feedback a lot easier. There is no fear of personal confrontation, you can prepare the wordings and rework them, and give the feedback a solid structure. In addition, it carries other benefits:
4 | Respect. No rebuttal. And respect.
If you want your people to give you feedback again next time, try to understand why they are saying what they’re saying from their point of view. If you start defending yourself or immediately explain to them that you see it differently, they won't tell you anything next time. Realize that this is feedback for you. The goal is not to correct the subordinate’s point of view, but to understand them and work with the information. Even if you think they misunderstand something, it is their reality and you have to get along with it, not refute it.
5 | Feedback is a gift, don't send it back unopened
The best way to teach your people not to be afraid to give you feedback is to work with the feedback you’ve already received. That is, follow it up with specific steps, measures, and actions. If in the previous point we encouraged you to respect and not refute, then here it’s fitting to include the education of subordinates in a particular topic if the feedback for you resulted from the fact that they do not fully understand something or lack some knowledge. It’s not actually part of the feedback, but a follow-up action. Nevertheless, changes should occur with you too (I explain more, I give information, I engage, I change my procedures, I adapt them to the needs of the team…). If your people see that feedback leads to useful changes, they will be happy to give it more often.