They may comment on:
- Our attire, haircut, and interactive style
- Organizational changes and the risks to us
- The last presentation we made, data set developed, or marketing idea we created
- The likelihood of our getting promoted or even downsized
We tend, at first, to take these comments at face value, as part of the background noise of work, until they strike a nerve.
Workplace savvy is a measure of our ability to correctly decode what we hear and see.
What our colleagues tell us is important. Behind every comment there’s either support, caution, implied criticism, or an offer of help.
We tend to weigh feedback based on who’s giving it: our boss, a coworker we like or one we don’t, the department manager, the HR rep, a customer, or a project team leader.
Consider the following statements as if you were either a hearing them or making them. Each has a positive element but two have a potentially negative undercurrent.
- Mary, your proposal for using social media to attract younger customers to our new product is a good one. Do you also plan to include messages that will connect with our long-time customers?
Criticism: If this is feedback from Mary’s boss, there’s a subtle criticism that her proposal missed a key customer segment.
Help: If it’s coming from a coworker, it could be considered helpful input to ensure the proposal’s success.
- Jacob, I’ve successfully put together Power Point presentations for the VP in the past. Let me finish the one you’re working on to announce the reorganization.
Intrusion: This coworker is saying, “I know how to do this and you don’t. Give it to me, so I can be the agent of its success.” I’d be wary of the coworker’s next step which may be taking the credit and demeaning Jacob.
- Paul, the last time there was a safety drill, I had the lead like you do now. Unfortunately, our department didn’t do too well. I learned a lot in the process, so if you’d like to talk over your plan, I’d be happy to share what I learned.
Help: Here the coworker is reaching out, offering to share her knowledge and experience so Paul can incorporate it into his plan.
Good feedback is information that enriches our knowledge and perspectives, so we can do a better job.
Who’s giving the feedback, why , and how determine the way we take it.
I was inspired to write this post while outside spraying herbicide on the grass creeping through the stones on my driveway.
It was another hot, humid day with a forecast of periods of rain.
As I was spraying, an older man in a mid-sized, green pick up stopped in the street across from me.
I’d never met this guy, although I’d been maintaining my farm property for over 25 years.
I told him that I’d had lots of experience killing weeds, the environmentally-friendly material I was using was commercial grade, and that the leaves would absorb it in about an hour. (My feedback to him.)
I too smiled and spoke in a friendly voice.
He smiled again, wished me a nice day, and drove off.
At first, I thought he was just trying to be helpful. Maybe he was.
Then I thought he was actually both critical (“How dumb is that woman using herbicide when it might rain?”) and intrusive (“I’d better stop her from wasting her time and money.”)
Anyway, I kept on spraying and the rain held off as I expected.
Things are rarely what they seem. Words have more layers than a chocolate torte. Making sure you understand what’s behind the feedback you receive and the feedback you give enhances your ability to navigate the challenging waters of your career.
Photo by bubbo-tubbo via Photoree