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Can we live without feedback ?

30th Jul 2018
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How long has it been since you’ve received or given feedback to someone at work? When is the last time you have had an open discussion with your subordinates on how they were performing and how they can improve at what they were doing? “5-6 months ago”, “In the last performance appraisal”, “Don’t really remember!” - these are the most common answers I’ve heard.  Often, we are so busy that we barely give a thought of giving feedback to our colleagues or subordinates. However, things are quite different in our personal lives. We give and receive feedback all the time. To get a better picture of what I am referring to, let’s understand the basic and fundamental behavior of humans.

Forget that we are managers or employees for a minute. Think from a human being's perspective and imagine a world where feedback in any form didn’t even exist. As a kid you recite a poem in your school assembly and hear no claps at the end of it. As a loving boyfriend you plan a surprise party for your girlfriend on her birthday. But, once she enters the room, she doesn't even react. As a user, you try to log in into your email account and you don’t see the ‘loading’ symbol (sundial or progress bar). I bet you would try to press the login button again and again. In all these instances, you expected immediate response or reaction (feedback) for your work. When it didn’t come or came late, it turned / turns into frustration. We, humans, are habituated to receive feedback from everything we do. It is deeply ingrained in our nature and emotions. But, when it comes to work we barely invest time in giving feedback to others - be it subordinates or peers. In most of the companies the only feedback that employees receive is during appraisals that come once or at most twice in a year. There is a huge gap between human expectations or behavior and what’s happening in reality.

As an employee, it is always healthy to give and receive feedback on a frequent basis, I mean that is the sole purpose of the organization setting up a performance management system. There are myriad of benefits in following this principle. Among them, the most important is that it will help us in understanding if our efforts are in line or tangential to the company’s expectations. In case, we are off track I’m sure most of us would try rectifying our actions the moment we receive the feedback.

Humans can neither progress nor improve without feedback. Similarly, an organization (which is obviously a group of people) cannot progress without ‘feedback’ being a part of its culture. One of the most tried and tested forms of management is feedback. Employees need to be open and willing to give and receive feedback.

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