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"Lack of feedback can lull an under performer into thinking their below-average work is sufficient, thus stunting any motivation they may have to improve."
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August 2014


There are many reasons that managers avoid giving relevant feedback to employees. Surprisingly, even "easy" feedback that comes with positive praise is often watered down to "Good job!" However, a feedback-free culture in the workplace can only lead to discouraged employees and diluted performance.This month I will give you a list of the perils of working in a feedback-free culture. 

 All the best,  


The Perils of a Feedback Free Culture


Without feedback, everyone works from individual vs shared agendas.


A feedback-free culture can destroy a team's ability to achieve a shared vision. If employees are left to use their own opinions of what "good" and "bad" performance looks like, these assumptions may be way off base and misaligned with what you are trying to accomplish in the long-term. Clearly, there is no way for an employer and an employee to share a common goal if performance is judged by different scales. Additionally, when employees are left in the dark about how they are doing, it's too easy to get complacent or comfortable.


Star performers feel neglected.


As mentioned in "Thanks for Being A Star Performer, Now I Will Ignore You ," article, too often, we forget about creating a feedback dialogue with our best employees. Unfortunately, without any feedback, top performers won't know they are considered by you to be a top performer. This leads to eroding engagement and loyalty. Even high-performers may need the occasional correction to their performance. This kind of feedback exchange should not be avoided for fear of demotivating a star employee, however.  High-performers will have plenty of positive aspects which you can emphasize to balance the negative feedback. In the end, every strong performer wants feedback on what can be improved so the discussion serves only to help them self-adjust and move on.


Underperformers are unaware.


In a feedback-free work culture, underperformers are not given timely performance feedback and continue to make mistakes or flounder in ambiguity. Lack of feedback can lull an underperformer into thinking their below-average work is sufficient, thus stunting any motivation they may have to improve. On the other hand, without direction underperforming employees may feel lost regarding their work, unaware of whether their efforts are on-target or not. Constructing feedback that addresses poor performance is vital, and while it may be difficult to tell your employee their performance is lacking, it will dissolve any issues of ambiguity and pave a path towards reaching common goals.




Managers spend more time correcting outcomes than managing human capital. 


Managers waste valuable company time correcting, explaining, improving, and/or changing work products of their employees, instead of spending that same time giving specific guidance and performance input. It is a better use of everyone's time to check-in with employee progress throughout a project's development so that mistakes are caught early on and can be corrected by the employee himself. Effective managers don't have to manage results because they have already put the effort into laying a strong foundation by communicating what is expected and making sure those expectations are consistently met.


Employees become stagnant.


When feedback is absent from the creative and planning processes, employees get stagnant and don't develop new skills or better techniques. This stifles the entire experience, halting an employee's ability to innovate because they have no idea that their work needs to be refreshed. Address your employees' weaknesses directly and give them a chance to strengthen their skills or learn new methods of delivering on assignments. Where there is a culture of open and reciprocal feedback, there is room to expand both personally and professionally. 


Not just for middle management.


A feedback-free environment is not just the ailment of young, inexperienced managers but we see it at the executive level too. Often, executives will say that their direct reports are mature or experienced enough that they don't need candid feedback. Ignoring your senior employees is insulting and kills the credibility of the leader if they are seen as conflict avoidant or too hands off.


Take the time to consciously create a culture in your company where feedback is not just present, but an integral part of your employer-employee relationship and how dynamic those working relationships become. By making the time to address the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you will not only reinforce your top performers but guide and motivate your underperformers, build trust along the corporate ladder, and establish a structure that encourages self-improvement and creativity. 

This is one in a series of leadership articles that can be found at www.penumbra.com.