Candy-coated Feedback Doesn’t Work As Information
Updated: Nov 6
A topic that comes up a lot in the workplace is feedback conversations people want to have or need to have or regret not having already had. A boss or co-worker sees that:
Someone is unhelpful to customers
Someone is doing the little things but ignoring the #1 priority
Someone makes repeated mistakes and fails to check their work
Someone is not listening to people
Not only does the boss or co-worker notice it; a whole lot of others do too. But this boss or co-worker doesn’t want to say anything. Because it makes them anxious or almost sick to broach the topic. They really can’t bring themselves to deal with the feelings or emotional reaction of the other person.
Unlike reporting neutral information like “It’s hot,” “It’s cold,” “We need to make a right turn here,” or “Sales have dropped off 30%,” feedback about human behavior often fails as information.
And that’s a problem.
The real point of feedback is in its information value. Feedback loops are a scientific concept–Information, then adjustment, then more information, more adjustment, etc.–as in a navigation system.
And when we hold back on providing accurate information, we deprive people from adjusting what they do. Candy-coated feedback doesn’t work. By the way neither does vinegar-coated feedback. But that’s another story…..
What’s so weird is that we live in such an information-rich age. Data is coming in from everywhere.
EXCEPT from human beings. People are pretty much just as unreliable as feedback givers as I imagine they were 2000 years ago. It is so so hard for humans to share accurate observations about someone’s behavior and how it affected a shared goal. This is because the message feels so emotional to both the giver and receiver, and especially to the giver who dreads sharing the information.
Think about it. If every leader were to improve the accuracy and frequency of the feedback they give to employees by 5%, what an improved world we would live in!
It is so so hard for humans to share accurate observations about someone’s behavior and how it affected a shared goal.