We don’t like to give negative feedback to people because it puts tension and makes us the bad guy. And then when we do give the feedback, it becomes a criticism. Navigating this tension of being the good guy and doing the right thing seems tough because we have this false dichotomy that either we are focused on outcomes, and people have to suffer – or we are focused on people and outcomes have to suffer.
I don’t agree. Our mental circuitry moves thoughts in this direction because of our obsession with speed, which I generally don’t agree with. Though I confess I fall for that trap too. We can be people and outcome oriented at the same time because it is after all the people who are generating the outcomes.
The balance comes in feedback when we focus on the circumstances, what can and cannot be changed, and on the mistake itself rather than the person. If someone drops something, he dropped something – it can mean he is clumsy but it may not. Criticism masked feedback that is levered at the identity of a person will not be appreciated.
And because people confuse the two, they think giving negative feedback is being a bad person. That intenal conflict and negative self-perception fuels the emotional-charge nature of this activity. We sometimes think not making the personal attack is sugar-coating and we switch between not wanting to be the hypocritical while not wanting to be the sufferer of the ignorance of the perpetrator.
We can all contribute to better working environments by first being better at giving and receiving feedback. It is an effective way to care and we can become more effective in that.