If You’re Withholding Feedback, You Are Lying to Your Employees
Updated: Nov 6
Sounds kind of harsh, doesn’t it? But think of managers you’ve worked for in the past who weren’t straight with you about what they really thought about your work...until months or years later. You didn’t trust them, did you?
What about about all of the negative remarks you’ve heard form other leaders about their direct reports–in your presence. Don’t you wish they’d find a way to talk to those employees NOW, and help them do better?
Withholding valuable information about what someone needs to do to improve is kind of criminal because it really hurts people. In fact, Millennials HATE managers who do this because they value feedback–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and they want to be coached on a day to day basis on how they can succeed and get promoted on the job.
It would be like a batting coach walking by a professional baseball player and never saying anything to them about their sloppy strikeout in the last game and how they can get refocused.
Your silence is interpreted by employees as “I must be doing OK.” If they are really not doing OK–including when they are way way better than OK and hitting home runs for your business–you are lying to them if you let them assume they are OK. If an employee is struggling, they often already know they’re not doing OK, and the message you are sending via absence of information feels fake, makes them worry, and ensures that nothing will improve.
You absolutely must start talking to people on a more frequent basis about how they are doing on the job. The only hard part is the first time you are honest, as they will be a little shocked that you’ve been lying for so long.
The only way to handle this is to own it. “I know I haven’t focused on giving you helpful feedback over the last two years, but I am now committing to you that I will be talking with you on a weekly basis about your work, and I want to hear your feedback about how I can do better as well. In fact, let’s schedule a regular time on Tuesday mornings. After we do it a few times, it will only take a few minutes.”
Now, you are telling the whole truth.