A Wall Street Journal article highlights changes in how organizations are allowing employees to provide each other with performance feedback. Dubbed as the “new tools for airing gripes,” these tools allow more direct or in some case more immediate routes to deliver both criticism and praise up, down and vertically along reporting lines.Some systems only facilitate feedback from named sources, while others allow the sender to remain anonymous. In either case the results can be less than optimal if the systems are misused or employed to only voice petty grievances, which leads to the following dilemma: Facilitating conversations sparked by negative feedback, while difficult, is a good idea. But what’s the best way to go about it?
The first step is to acknowledge that much of the work we do involves interacting with others in groups or teams. So rather than sharing responses directly linked to specific individuals, it makes more sense to aggregate the collective feedback prior to delivery. This promotes candor among feedback-givers because the identity of their responses is protected. Collective feedback is also much harder for the feedback-receivers to dispute. It’s one thing to dismiss feedback from a single person, but it’s a much different story when multiple people are raising similar issues.
Effective feedback must be on behavior that is relevant to performance. Rather than griping about a specific event or situation, peers should provide feedback to team members that provides insight into their individual contributions. This feedback should address dimensions such as accountability, work quality, and work quantity; and should use questions like:
Of course, self-assessment is an important part of the development process. The title of a recent HBR article says it all – “We’re Not Very Self-Aware, Especially at Work” . A simple way of becoming more self-aware is to compare your self-assessment with your peers’ assessments. Perhaps you believe you’re prepared, but viewing how prepared you are through the lens of your team gives you a better idea of how you’re perceived. After all, perception is reality.
So we’ve covered individual assessment, but what about assessing the team? Individual contributions are important, but success depends on team dynamics and how well the team works together. As a result, it’s important to assess dimensions, capture valuable information, and provide feedback into overall team effectiveness. These team-level dimensions include conflict, cooperation, coordination, confidence, and cohesion; and can be measured by asking simple questions like:
Rather than providing a tool for “airing gripes,” feedback must be leveraged in more positive ways. Aggregate each individual’s responses to avoid persecution complexes. Ask questions that are based in organizational behavior research. Provide a self-assessment to kick start accurate self-reflection. If your tools utilize these things you can avoid the griping and deliver valuable feedback that can shape a team’s culture and overall effectiveness.
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