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The Topic of Feedback at Dinner

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Want to get a lively conversation going at a dinner party?

Ask people what they think about feedback in their workplace. Does it work well? Do they give people helpful feedback? What about their manager?

I’ve done this at a half dozen dinners recently and, wow, it brings up a lot of emotions quickly!

One friend, who’s obviously been on the painful end of overly-critical bosses, felt that managers should not give anyone feedback because “they are not qualified to give it!” She was so strident on the topic that I didn’t have the heart to ask her who she thought should be giving feedback.

Another friend who is a professor told me that feedback is rarely helpful because people are simply not good at certain things and they can’t change. Better to move them into a different role and get a person who’s naturally good at what you need.

Most people cite examples of toxic bosses who deny people feedback and then years later become enraged or fire people over a small matter.

Most people assess managers in their workplace as pretty bad at giving feedback that helps people grow and improve. The exceptions are people in their twenties and early thirties who are themselves managers or colleagues who love the way they use feedback positively in their group.

First of all, Millennials are eager to get lots of feedback and if their manager doesn’t provide it, they ask for it–early and often. I am surprised at how often their views of feedback aren’t tied up with formal hierarchy. In technology companies hiring a lot of other Millennials, the norm is that managers always ask employees for how they can improve.

If you bring up this topic at your next dinner, no one will need coffee...

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