In a world where it seems everyone has an opinion and a willingness to share it, once people get to work they often become weirdly close mouthed, hesitating to tell the boss that the new initiative is doomed, the founder asking for money just how hopeless his business plan is, or the less-than-stellar colleague the several ways he is making your life more difficult.
Hence all the advice out there on how to elicit more feedback, give better criticism, and even, in a recent favorite phraseology, build a "feedback culture." But the very fact that these types of posts and articles are so numerous tells you something--despite a tsunami of tips, people are still looking for answers. So why is getting people to say what they really think so very hard?
Because most people go about it backward, answered recruiting blog Fistful of Talent recently. "Most organizations start by teaching managers how to give feedback effectively. The logic follows that if they have the skill, then they'll go around giving all sorts of helpful feedback to readily receptive employees who will use it to improve and pay it forward in a never-ending positive spiral of development and enrichment. Sounds lovely, doesn't it?" writes Ben Olds. "Problem is: I've tried it. It doesn't work."
Is there a better way to encourage feedback? Yes, insists Olds, but only if you start by acknowledging that just tutoring bosses in how and why to give more feedback is not enough; employees also need to learn how to receive that advice.
"The most skilled provider in the world will have a miserable conversation with someone who doesn't want feedback, and/or doesn't know how to receive it," Olds says. It's hard to argue with him. So instead of just focusing on giving feedback, you need to simultaneously ensure you're helping your employees get better at accepting it as well. This requires a four-point strategy, according to Olds: