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Why do managers fail in giving feedback?

A vital part of being a manager is giving and receiving feedback. Susan E. DeFranzo in “5 Reasons Why Feedback is Important’ describes it as helpful information or criticism about prior action or behaviour from an individual, communicated to another individual or a group. An individual or a group can use this information to adjust and improve current and future actions, behaviours and performances. It is a crucial part of being a leader, it is what helps a manager and their team perform better. Feedback is vital, but is it given the importance it requires?

The purpose of feedback is to let your team members know where they stand in terms of performance or the different criteria one has set up. The main issue that managers are regular employees face is the fear associated with ‘Performance Review’ and how these reviews are given after a long period, for example- once in three months or twice a year. It hampers overall growth and can delay the completion of goals.

 Managers fail to give feedback because it can be unnerving for them. A workplace requires a healthy and safe environment, it requires an environment that facilitates high performance. A healthy enviornment includes constructive criticism, but since most of us are wired to think that correction or criticism means something negative or we’re not doing anything right altogether, this negative emotional enviroment makes it all the more difficult and both parties  end up dreading it. Managers might fail in giving feedback also because they are afraid of discouraging their employees or offending someone, especially if they have mature members in their teams. 

Elizabeth Heron an HR Manager and a writer for Careers in Government shares three reasons for manager’s failure in giving feedback. Rather than laying emphasis only on failing she talks about the fear associated with feedback. She talks about-

The Lack of Confidence

It’s mostly found in first time managers, they’re still learning the ropes. And if they’re not secure in their decisions and capabilities, they find it difficult to correct or offer constructive criticism to their own team members. Fear holds all of us back, but managers experience it at a different level than regular employees do. A few reasons for the above are that-

  • They were never trained to give feedback
  • They have no experience in giving the same.

Anxiety about what will happen next or what will happen if feedback is given, will the employee quit? Will they get angry or discourages and not perform altogether holds a manager back.

She offers advice on how to overcome this obstacle. She talks about giving detailed feedback in a routinely manner, in this way both employees and managers will be aware and ready for evaluation. Performance reviews should be scheduled on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. They serve as gently nudges in the right direction and doesn’t overwhelm and blindside an employee with built up feedback.

Managers who aren’t trained in giving feedback arent aware of an appropriate way of doing so, and this is a sure set up for failure. It is crucial for companies/organisations to have Management Training Programmes, they are necessary especially for first time managers. These programes provide a structure and shows them how not all feedback is ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ and highlights the upsides of providing the same.

Fear Of Confrontation

This fear is directly related to the fear of being disliked, managers are often found to fear their employees hating and ostracising them. Hence, the hesitation in or not giving feedback at all.  They are also afraid of how an employee will react on receiving feedback. Therefore, Management Training Programmes must teach managers to carefully deliver any kind of feedback, especially when it’s negative.

Fear of Apperaing Weak

Another problem that arises when managers fear giving feedback is the fear of appearing weak. Though this issue is often less of an issue than the other reasons cited above, it does happen. Managers often fear that offering praise or positive feedback might make them look weak or too full of praise. However, one of the best ways to offer negative feedback is with a little praise. Many managers find that employees are more likely to take their negative feedback better when they have something encouraging to say.

Overcoming the above mentioned obstacles is necessary for a manager or a leader to flourish. And it isn’t only an individual manager’s responsibility to deal with such fears. companies/organisations must ensure that they have a blueprint their managers can rely on. And also that these managers are given feedback from their team mates as well as higher ups, in terms of how they are performing as a manager.

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