Feedback? Just say: No, thanks!
In almost all companies, a feedback culture is cultivated. Feedback has a reputation for improving performance, so it’s built-in as standard after workshops, training, and meetings, for example. Of course, regular peer feedback and 360-degree feedback with the boss are not to be missed. As early as the hiring process, applicants are screened for their ability to provide feedback.
Feedback has almost become a cult. There are fixed forms, rites, places, times for feedback, and the staff is committed to feedback.
But is feedback as useful and helpful as its reputation?
Do you know the typical request at the end of an event: “I would be happy if everyone briefly said how they found it today”? My opinion on this: It could hardly be worse. Why do I see it that way? What’s wrong with it? You’d like to know what people thought!
But before I get into that, let’s look at a type of feedback that is even worse: unsolicited feedback. It comes as a surprise and usually sneaks up on you. At the end of an event, such as a workshop, you’re packing up your things, and suddenly someone is standing next to you asking: “Can I give you feedback on your workshop?” My response to that is: “No, thank you!” Does that seem rude to you? In fact, it’s very friendly. Because in almost all cases, the motive that guides the feedback giver is rather base. He wants to put himself out there to show how great he is. It’s not about helping. The effect is that you feel bad after such feedback, and that is precisely what is intended. Therefore, a simple strategy helps here: ignore unwanted feedback and say “no”.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t want to improve yourself. There are people you value and who can contribute to your own development based on their experience and knowledge. You can approach them specifically and ask them for feedback. But these are not the people who impose themselves without being asked.
Let us come to the request mentioned above at the end of an event: “I would be pleased if everyone could briefly say what they thought of today.” The sense of this feedback is not clear to me. After 3–4 participants, a direction emerges, and only repetitions follow. To me, this practice seems more like the self-congratulation of the questioner. As a facilitator of an event, I am an expert on the “how”. It’s about getting results, not how the participants feel at the end.
Again, the only person who can give us constructive feedback is someone who regularly does such events and can help because of her experience and knowledge.
Feedback can also lead to a drop in performance, especially in complex situations. Dr. Magda Osman has investigated this phenomenon in a study (Osman, M., 2012: The role of reward in dynamic decision making. Frontiers in Neuroscience). She found that feedback in complex situations harms decision making. Therefore, one should choose the timing of a feedback conversation wisely.
I’m not against feedback at all, but it should be desired and come from people you can learn from. No one needs feedback as self-congratulation, to promote harmony and as a cult.