Instant Feedback Just Doesn’t Work. It’s Time to Evolve.

 

 

As our workplaces rapidly embrace international professionals and multiculturalism and become more diverse, an interesting development has come to light that I feel needs to be addressed at the earliest: the process of feedback in an intercultural context and how to tackle its many flaws.

These days there is this idea made common in several industries, particularly the tech sector, that abrasive, instant feedback is a way to stop beating about the bush and giving it straight to the recipient, sometimes even in public spaces. The idea being that the pressure created by the ‘tough love’ will motivate employees into bringing out their best, something that even Hollywood has glamorized with films like The Devil Wears Prada.

The reality is that there are issues with providing instant feedback, the most frequent one being that you fail to realize if the issue you are raising is concerning a person’s individual personality, or a cultural trait or was purely situational.

The second common issue is that feedback works differently in different cultures. Basically, your attempt at it may not even register, or come across in a negative manner. Americans, for instance, generally pepper in several positive comments before raising a negative one, while most Europeans are straightforward and critical about the whole thing. In a lot of Asian countries, feedback is discussed implicitly, and only provided in private settings and not in the public workspace. Do you see now how instant feedback could be misconstrued in an intercultural context? In fact, a lot of the latest discussions talk about ending the ‘traditional’ concept of feedback altogether, as it has shown time and again to not help improve performance. You can read about it here.

An important bit from the last paragraph was how feedback was culturally handled in Asian countries, in a one-on-one setting. It is actually now considered a preferable alternative to traditional feedback sheets. Combining that with the continuous feedback style is key to fostering a better relationship between employee and manager. It boosts the turnover rate for improvement as managers no longer have to wait for an arbitrary amount of time to discuss and motivate an employee, then wait another arbitrary amount of time before iterating on that previous session. Any undesirable behaviour or poor performance is not given time to grow as it could evolve into something worse.

One-on-one meetings further help this regular improvement along – these sessions allow for a more candid and diverse discussion that isn’t restricted to whatever rubric was set up on a feedback form. Combined, these two techniques can help managers bring out the best in their employees and build a more positive and constructive feedback cycle that is morale and productivity boosting. It is essential that this entire process be made a conversation, a two-way interaction rather than a session where a manager shares their rating of their employee’s skills. This is especially important as recent research and studies are showing what has been a constant point of discussion: that human beings are incapable of reliably rating themselves or other humans. You can read the thorough breakdown over at the Harvard Business Review, who make a strong case against the current practices of ‘feedback culture’.

Finally, I’d like to build on the concept of feedback but in a slightly tangential way: the idea behind ratings. Specifically, students rating their lecturers or teachers. Ratings have become an integral part of modern culture, we rate everything from food to places to car rides to memes. However, the entire concept is highly reductive and strips context and depth from any situation. For instance, giving an Uber driver driving dangerously a 1-star is not enough of a response, while a 1-star for a shoddy car will not fix whatever was broken in the vehicle. These rating systems are gamifying a complex thing and are fundamentally broken.

Coming back to students rating lecturers, I’m sure you can now easily spot the possibilities of exploiting the system to the detriment of the lecturer. Is a lecturer bad because he gave your essay a poor grade? Does that one poor grade negate an entire teaching period’s efforts? And is the student able to rate the knowledge areas she doesn’t even know existed?

All that nuance is lost when reduced to a rating system. Additionally, most lecturers are working in a gig-based economy, just like those Uber drivers, and they are at the mercy of these broken ratings system. So often those who entertain and let you pass easily will receive good feedback but those who challenge you and make you work harder will get negative feedback. And where do you think you learned more?

Given that we don’t know what we don’t know and our multi-facetted intercultural contexts, don’t you think feedback is overrated and an outdated concept?

Unless there’s an extenuating circumstance, don’t dignify these ratings systems by assuming they’re real feedback.

Let’s work towards reworking the ratings and feedback biases that drive so many of modern workplaces.
In our RockMeRetreat you will learn more about our bias in decision making and how we are less rational than we would like to think. The accompanying book is called “Die emotionalen Grundlagen des Denkens”.

You will also learn methods that are more effective in helping yourself and others grow to your full potential.

I look forward to having you on board.

Kind regards,
Angie Weinberger

PS: I have a limited number of seats available for the RockMeRetreat 2019. I reserved 28 June and 5 July to discuss your goals and questions for the RockMeRetreat.


Please email l if you wish to have a conversation with me. These meetings are free of charge for readers of the Club Sandwich, RockMeApp users and obviously current clients.



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