Feedback Sucks!

Get your attention? Then listen up. Your employees are begging for feedback. They’re craving it. They’re practically screaming for it.

Give it to them.

Just take a look at the numbers in Mark Murphy’s blog, Employees Are Desperate For Feedback. According to a study by Leadership IQ, “Fifty-one percent of employees do not know whether their performance is where it should be.”

That’s half of the employees surveyed in the study (3,611 employees) admitting to not knowing where they stand. Only 21 percent said they knew where they stood, with the balance being in the middle.

Why? Why are managers so determined to not provide feedback? Is it that they think that’s too “touchy-feely”? Too personal? Is it that they think employees should just get on with the job and forget about what others think? Do they think employees can read their mind?

Here’s what I think is a big part of the reason: It’s a generational thing.

If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re more likely to come from the world of “just get on with,” and “I hate all that personal stuff.” It’s certainly how our parents worked, and the trickle down effect of their parenting lead to many of us being the same. Our parents got little feedback, so they gave us little feedback. You need to be tough, you know.

digital game based learningBut, if you’re a Gen-Xer or Gen-Yer, or as Marc Prensky coined, a “Digital Native” (someone who grew up with computers and playing computer-based games) in his book Digital Game-Based Learning, you’re used to feedback. A lot of it. Immediate. Now. More of it. Feedback. That’s what computer games do. That’s what they’re based on. You do something, and you get immediate feedback. Confirming feedback (that worked, so do more of that), or corrective feedback (that didn’t work, so do something different).

My guess is that there are many Baby Boomers managing Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers. And half the Gen-X/Yers are crying out for feedback. In fact, according to the study, two out of every three employees say they have too little interaction with their computer game… I mean, with their boss. See, they are used to having immediate interaction with their games, with their computer. But with their bosses… well, they don’t get enough interaction, enough feedback.

I once had a boss that I wouldn’t even see for over a week at a time. And when I did see him, I would not get any feedback. No, feedback was reserved for that one meeting each year – the annual performance review. That lasted no more than 20 minutes, and consisted of him telling me, “Keep up the good work.” I didn’t even know what it was that was “good,” so I didn’t know what I should keep doing. So, I just did what I thought was the right thing to do and hoped that was it. Hope. A pretty good strategy, right?

My bet is this: If you talked to the bosses of the employees that said they didn’t get enough interaction and asked them if they interacted enough with their employees, most would say yes. Their perception is they interact enough. Their employees say they don’t. Makes you wonder what your employees think.

If there are any Gen-Xers or Gen-Yers reporting to you, I suggest you think more like a computer game and give plenty of feedback, immediately. That is if you care about how they perform. Because, for some reason, when most people do not get the feedback they want, they assume the worst.

Oh, by the way… I wouldn’t mind some feedback, too. I’ve been thinking about stopping this blog since I get so little feedback. I mean, what’s the point? Based on the lack of feedback, the only conclusion I can come to is that I’m doing a terrible job or no one cares whether I continue or not.

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