It’s college graduation time around the country. New graduates are picking up their diploma and are ready to begin their working career. I love new graduates; I was one once in my life.
Feedback is invaluable to new graduates because it helps guide them early in their career when “they don’t know what they don’t know.” Feedback gives them direction and encouragement.
The reality is though, feedback isn’t just important to new graduates—it’s important to everyone, regardless of how long you’ve been working in your career. Yet while it’s crucial for every one of us, why is it you don’t hear many people talk about receiving good feedback?
I think the problem is most people don’t welcome feedback. If you make yourself open to receiving feedback, if you really welcome it and are thankful for it, you’ll get more of it. That means whether you get good feedback or feedback you don’t like to hear.
However, I find that while many people say they want feedback, most only want feedback when they are told they are doing good. They often take feedback as criticism instead of some advice to get better.
Because these people feel criticized, they react in some common ways when they receive feedback from their leader that they don’t want to hear.
- They’ll want to get into a debate and try to convince their leader that his or her feedback was wrong.
- They’ll try to shift the focus elsewhere. You know, blame someone else! For example, after being told they need to choose their words more carefully because they come on too strong in meetings, the person responds, “It’s not my fault! Those people are just too sensitive.”
- They’ll go completely quiet, shutting down and saying nothing. They won’t engage. It’s as if they want to ignore what they are being told, and their body language says they aren’t interested.
Here’s why those reactions keep you from getting the feedback you might need.
First, accept that many leaders struggle to give feedback. We’d like to think that a requirement of being a leader is giving great feedback. I would agree, but also remember they are human beings. Many aren’t comfortable doing it even though they know it’s important.
Why? Because they dread the type of responses I just described. When a leader gets reactions like those, it makes them hold off on providing feedback because they don’t like the conflict. They say to themselves, “Since you don’t care enough to receive my feedback when I’m trying to help you, I just won’t provide feedback.” And they don’t.
That isn’t what you want. If you want to get better and smarter, you need to welcome feedback, even when you don’t like it. Though the feedback you don’t like to hear is a form of a correction, it might be just what you need: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid” (Proverbs 12:1 NIV).
Be thankful when you receive feedback, good and bad. When you do, make certain you understand it. Clarifying questions are okay but remember, it’s not a debate. Remember to thank the person for taking the time to tell you.
If you’re genuinely open to feedback, you’ll get more of it. Remember what it says in scripture: “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise” Proverbs 15:31(NIV).
Welcome feedback and you’ll become smarter and better at your job!
What advice do you have for anyone receiving feedback, especially if it’s something they don’t want to hear?
Dale Kreienkamp is a keynote speaker, Human Resources consultant, and the author of How Long, O Lord, How Long? Devotions for the Unemployed and Those Who Love Them. He has experienced a personal journey of unemployment twice when both positions were eliminated in organizational restructuring. These personal experiences created a desire within him to help others impacted by unemployment through inspirational devotions. Dale is also an active volunteer at his home church and leader in his local community.