Fear of Feedback: Why you must be able to read the minds of your team members

Why is it, for most people at least, so difficult to give and get feedback in their workplace? It helps to know that our brains detect feedback as an
actual attack. That’s right: it’s the old survival instinct.

3 min read
Posted by Screver

Nature of the Fear

It’s in our nature: most of us equate feedback with criticism. This might be due to past situations. In the workplace, most employees fear the yearly evaluation more than the devil fears holy water. Having to sit down with your boss and listen to your faults is considered a painful session.

Since hurtful feedback can make matters worse one might ask himself: is feedback really necessary?

The answer is simple: yes. According to data research, the majority of the workplaces with the highest employee engagement were the ones with a consistent feedback method. Like the saying goes, “Good advice grates on the ear.” Why is that so? Because the human brain processes criticism as a threat to our survival.

Neuroscientists claim the brain will find a way to make sure we feel we’re in the right – even when we’re not. Therefore, the recipient of criticism senses – unconsciously or not – a safety problem. That’s vital to know for a manager who likes to dash out comments.

Psychology of Feedback

But the question remains: how do you give feedback in a way that is not counterproductive? Just consider these points in the psychology of feedback:

  • Let peers give feedback:

    It’s also in our DNA that we want to connect with others. Only then can the human being process feedback. In other words: If someone gives feedback who does not work closely with your team, it’s next to useless. Better to allow peers or respected managers to give feedback – people who are in the same boat.

  • Know the individual:

    If you pride yourself on being a connoisseur of human character, then you must know that among your staff you have self-confident individuals as well as those who need more affirmation than others. The self-assured ones can take criticism better. They don’t see it as a threat to their self-image. But the insecure ones might get that dreadful sinking feeling of getting fired. That’s why you must always tailor your feedback to a single person.

  • It’s the effort that counts:

    It’s a good idea to praise the effort regardless of the results. If you only give praise when someone achieved something, you might send the wrong message. Because praise is not just dependent on the outcome but on perseverance as well.

Get around the psychological blocks of that fear of feedback.

Keep the morale high. Let your team know that honest feedback will allow them to develop and benefits their own career progression. And, please, temper the negatives with plenty of affirmations on how well the job is done otherwise. That’s what we kept in mind when we created the Screver feedback platform.

With Screver, we developed a feedback system…

…with surveys that employees actually love to take;
…that encourages everybody to give feedback, at any time;
…that is not harmful and improves the effort;
…that is concrete and gets truthful results.

Do you have a project in mind?

Great, we’d like to co-invest!

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