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From ThoughtLeaders, LLC, 1/26/15, 4 Faulty Assumptions You Have About Giving Feedback

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

If you are a manager, the chances are great that you dread giving honest feedback to your team members on a frequent basis. And yet it is at the top of the list of what employees today want and need from their leaders. This is particularly true for younger and highly skilled employees who can and will leave your organization if they can find better opportunities and development elsewhere.

This trend is building steam

In Gallup’s massive longitudinal study on the employee engagement of workers at all levels and across the globe, there was no more important indicator of satisfaction and willingness to stay on the job than whether or not someone in their workplace (usually a manager) had talked with them recently about how they were doing on the job. A quarter of global employees in the same survey reported that they received no feedback at all from their supervisors, and this was a major factor in their workplace dissatisfaction.

In a study of more than 3,600 employees, 51 percent of them said that they received too little constructive criticism from their boss, and 65 percent of those who did receive feedback, either positive or negative, said they didn’t receive enough information to know what to repeat or change. People want to know exactly what they need to do to perform well on the job.

In 2011, Jay Gilbert conducted interviews with Millennials that revealed just how serious they are about their feedback; he received many responses similar to this one:

“If I get feedback from above as to if what I am doing is ok or needs changes, and whether I should do more or less, etc., I do not care about the message. I am very receptive even to quite negative feedback, but I like knowing where I stand, and I like knowing what the expectations are and how I’m stacking up.”

“Tell it like it is—Don’t BS me!”

Clearly, when it comes to feedback, younger workers want substance over style. The idea that a boss is softening or qualifying the delivery of a message seems foreign to them. It is not surprising that the employees most accustomed to unvarnished opinions, unverified “news” from a thousand sources, and emotionally “naked” personal revelations on the Internet want the same instantaneous access to unpolished, raw data—feedback—from their manager. And they want it now.

Question your faulty assumptions

You may need to update some of your thinking and let go of some of your emotional reactions in order to become a great feedback giver and developer of your people. Here are a few faulty assumptions you may recognize:

Faulty Assumption #1

“People will become discouraged if I start giving them corrective feedback.”

If you start giving honest feedback after holding it back for a long time, they may be confused at first. But if you explain to the whole team that you want to start giving everybody more frequent feedback (and to receive it from them too), they will be appreciative that you are finally letting them know where they stand. Also, honest feedback includes positive feedback about what is going well. After a while, it is just feedback—positive, corrective, and in-between. Always include the business impact of what they are doing so they can see why the topic you are mentioning is important.

Faulty Assumption #2

“I want to be fair to people and wait until I have plenty of accurate observations before I give them feedback.”

This is frustrating to employees. The longer you hold back (and many managers wait for up to 12 months to break the news in a performance review), the more resentment employees feel toward you for not letting them correct any problems earlier.

Faulty Assumption #3

“I don’t have time to schedule all of these feedback conversations”

While you will need to allocate about 30 minutes per person the first week you start giving everyone feedback, you and your team members will quickly get in the swing of faster and faster feedback discussions—in the hall, right after a meeting, and in informal interactions or calls throughout the day. In less that two weeks time, you will see great efficiencies resulting from the improved work actions your employees are taking. You will also see that the feedback effort is actually saving you time.

Faulty Assumption #4

“Trust is all important and if I give honest feedback, people won’t trust me.”

Actually, the opposite is true. Leaders who can be trusted to immediately offer feedback create a happier workplace where people feel more secure. Employees are more trusting of an honest manager who talks with them frequently and shows them again and again that they want to help them perform their jobs excellently.

Try feedback now, if you want to build trust, satiate your feedback-deprived workers, and develop them to be their best!


– Gallup, Survey on Employee Engagement, 2011. – Leadership IQ Study, “Employees Want Feedback, Even if It’s Negative, Study Finds,” World at Work, October 9, 2009. – Jay Gilbert, “The Millennials: A Generation of Employees, A New Set of Engagement Policies,” Ivey Business Journal (September/October 2011).

Published, 1/26/2015, ThoughtLeaders, LLC

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