Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ancient Wisdom Can Help Employers Give Better Feedback

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Ancient Wisdom Can Help Employers Give Better Feedback

Article excerpt

Giving feedback is unquestionably one of the most challenging tasks for any leader, as it can be painful to both the giver and receiver. It is nonetheless invaluable: Research has shown that employees recognize the importance of feedback - whether positive or negative - to their career development. Many even welcome it, provided it's given well. One study of nearly a thousand employees both in the United States and abroad found that 92 percent believed that negative feedback is effective at improving performance - "if delivered appropriately."

Unfortunately, most leaders are reluctant and uncomfortable providing negative feedback - and when they give it, they don't follow the "appropriate" advice above. In a study of 2,700 leaders, researchers found that a majority tend to avoid giving negative feedback, and 43 percent described doing so as a "stressful and difficult experience."

There are a host of reasons this may be the case, most of which can be boiled down to the notion that humans are wired to avoid pain. So how can managers become better at providing their employees with negative feedback that successfully highlights problems and how to resolve them?

My experience in coaching executives on giving meaningful and effective feedback reminds me of an ancient Sufi saying dating to the 13th century: "Before you speak, let your words pass through these three gates: At the first gate, ask yourself, Is it true?' At the second gate, ask yourself, Is it necessary?' At the third gate, ask yourself, Is it kind?'

In other words, as long as managers always ensure their feedback is unbiased, essential and civil, it's almost certain to be effective and help an employee grow. And it's a philosophy supported by existing research.

Researchers have consistently found that bias - conscious and unconscious - influences our views of others. …

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