I’ll never forget the first boss I worked for who actually understood feedback.
Coming from a previous job in which I had received little to none, I was ready to put my head down, get to work, and earn the respect of my new peers. As a good Midwestern girl I also wasn’t accustomed to tooting my own horn. Who likes to sit around a bunch of horn tooters? No one.
What I didn’t expect was a manager who understood that the path to my success was to actually report it to his own superiors.
We worked in a close team on projects that affected various parts of the company. He knew what I was working on day to day, but gave me a lot of freedom. So when I landed a win, he celebrated with me and immediately prompted me to “send it around.” (This was code for politely bringing the win to the attention of anyone who might possibly be interested in or affected by it, usually in the form of a mass email.)
I cringed every time! Why did I need to take the extra step to brag on myself? Couldn’t anyone with interest see for themselves all the success I was having, since it was all public? And if they really wanted a report on my progress, couldn’t I send one at the end of the quarter?
There may have been some gender, age and regional differences that contributed to my hesitance, but that manager taught me that within a workplace, perception is everything. I could be working my tail off landing dozens of wins each week, but others were busy with their own work. Other departments didn’t have time to look into everything I was working on, but sometimes — as is human nature — they did have time to question the way I was spending my time!
This was the importance of the feedback loop, which even OPM feels is worth noting on their website. Quick email notes to let someone know their idea had paid off — or posting a win to a channel within the company’s internal social media platform — went a long way towards boosting perception of our work, but also helped me get to know the various departments I was helping. As a result, I also got to know other department heads much better, and that helped my own career.
Of course, not every job allows the opportunity to brag publicly about everyday wins. But feedback is more than an employee to employer loop- it also runs the other way. According to Globoforce and Gallup statistics, 39 percent of employees say they don’t feel appreciated at work. Sixty-five percent said they wanted more feedback, and 69 percent said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better recognized.
Scary, right? And it’s especially true for millennials, who, yes, badly crave feedback (and will leave your company if they’re not getting it)! My former manager, the one who was so great at both giving feedback and prompting me to give it to others, still teased me mercilessly about this. But as one young woman said to the blogger linked above, “I would rather my boss tell me now that I’m doing it wrong than I do it wrong for the next 20 years and don’t get to where I want to go.”
Lastly, there’s the client/vendor feedback loop. This is an especially tricky one, but it’s also especially important. If you’re a dissatisfied customer and thinking about leaving a particular brand or vendor in the dust, try expressing the “why” to them first. (You may have noticed online retailers getting more and more desperate about this, mainly in the form of feedback surveys, as customers get pickier about who to stay loyal to.) Chances are the store, or your support team, want to make you happy and keep your business! It’s costly for everyone involved to have to close a contract and then look for new business.
Management author Bruce Tulgan, who has written a book about managing using feedback, recommends having lots and lots of boring conversations, instead of one “big” conversation.
What boring conversations can you have today?
Image Credit: 123rf/alexskopje
Laura Finch, a native of Wheaton, IL, has eight years of experience in politics and news, including time spent working as a press aide to a U.S. congressman and a stint as a producer for a morning cable news show. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Taylor University in Indiana, a graduate degree in digital journalism from American University in Washington, D.C., and is an alumna of Indiana’s Lugar Series. She has also been published in one book, “The Zambia Project,” about a major student AIDS project completed through WorldVision. In her spare time Laura loves to run along the Potomac and discover new D.C. restaurants with her husband, Andrew.