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Why Are We So Afraid Of Feedback?


Feedback conversations: friend or foe? Turns out, most managers and employees think the latter. Bosses dread the employee’s reaction in response to their feedback. Employees are scared of feedback because light criticism can feel like an assault to their personal character. But why are people on both sides of the desk fearful of feedback?

We can partly blame our biology for this. From the prehistoric days of running away from sabre-toothed felines, our brains are attuned to protect us from danger. In the modern day, our brains are still hardwired to fight back in response to a threat, even if it is just to words.

In fact, just the word feedback can be associated with negative feelings for both the person receiving the feedback and the one giving it. This might be due to our biological instinct to prioritize negative input over positive stimuli. Simply put, we are more likely to recall criticism rather than praise.

“Bad events are on average five times as powerful as good ones.” – Roy Baumeister, Professor of Psychology

Managers are also more prone to focus on the negative information. But they also don’t want to embarrass their employees and hurt their feelings by exposing their shortcomings. This, in turn, may impede their ability to provide effective feedback.

Even though our biology seems to have wired our brains to fear feedback, over time and through repetition, we can learn to rewire our perspective of feedback. Here are 3 tips to help you overcome your fear of feedback.

1) Understand the importance of feedback

Whether you are giving or receiving feedback, understanding that these conversations are a powerful tool for personal and business performance is critical. Effective feedback sharing helps clarify expectations, develops employees’ skills, motivates employees, and helps build good work relationships. Check out our blog on the importance of feedback for more details. Bottom line: stop fearing feedback conversations and fear not having them instead.

2) Prepare before the meeting

Both supervisors and employees are more likely to dwell on negatives over positives. Take the time to prepare for your meeting. Performing a self-assessment can help you become aware of your strengths and weaknesses and better prepare you for the feedback conversation.

3) Encourage a continuous flow of feedback

When feedback conversations are infrequent, it can become more daunting for employees. Increasing the frequency of feedback conversations will make people on both sides of the table more comfortable. Make it a part of your weekly / monthly routine – start making the conversations a regular occurrence. Increasing the occurrence will help create a feedback culture at your organization (which has as multitude of benefits).

Have any other useful tips? Let us know!

If you are looking for a continuous feedback software that can help document your check-ins, check out Pavestep!

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