AKA A Short Story About Feedback
I was talking with my manager the other day after not seeing her for a few days, and before I could stop myself the words just started tumbling out of my mouth:
I know you haven’t been in the office much lately, and when you have, you’ve been so busy that the door’s closed most of the time. But after losing contact on some of the projects we’re working on I start to wonder, “Is it me? Did I do something wrong?” I start to second guess myself even when there’s nothing going on. Are we good?
Her response? Assume we’re good. If we’re not, I will let you know.
I stopped for a second to let that soak in. Don’t assume the worst if you don’t talk with your manager for a few days. Don’t let the doubt get in your way when there’s no valid reason for it. Don’t assume the worst, because it will leech away your energy and enthusiasm and replace it with fear and doubt.
My manager is one of the best I’ve ever seen when it comes to giving feedback and constructive criticism when necessary. So when there is a lapse in the flow of communication, it’s immediately obvious.
Like all of the great ideas and quotes I run across at work (like the “wasting time at work” metaphor I’ve come to love), I wrote it on a Post-It and stuck it on my white board. (Someday I need to write a series based on those notes, because there is serious wisdom up there.) I use those notes to remind me of what really matters in the day-to-day.
What about you? Do you have that same nagging feeling when you aren’t able to communicate with those you normally work closely with? Do you automatically believe the worst or do you assume the best?
It sounds like even though your manager told you to assume for the best unless otherwise state. Management by exception (hands off until something breaks) creates anxious followers and conditions employees that the only time the manager has time for you is to criticize or to fix things. Does this management style *inspire* you to be a better employee?
Imagine if the exact opposite style was applied where the manager only talked to you about the good things and ignored the criticisms (I know it is not realistic/practical). How would your satisfaction, engagement, and productivity be different?
@Consistency While I’d normally agree with that for most managers, this isn’t the case this time. It was a unique situation of her being out of the office in the middle of some big assignments. On the average, everyday basis she is absolutely stellar at providing feedback. The “assume the best” works well only if the manager is already doing a good job of managing. If they are not the silence just compounds the issue!
Anyone seeking to be or do their best will innately seek feedback. In the absence of feedback we sometimes question ourselves.
The real fear should be if we slowly stop questioning ourselves to the point we no longer seek feedback or become complacent!
I think it is a very human thing to do….most of us take a look at how we feel or how something affects us. I believe this is more so an issue when you do have a great leader who is often cheering you on. If you have a period of time when they are physically there but you are receiving no feedback like â€œnormalâ€ you begin to think it MUST be ME.
I completely share your feelings. I’m 40 years old and SPHR certified and pretty sure I know what I’m doing so you’d think I’d be secure enough to not question where I stand with my manager. Instead, I let it eat away at me and cause self doubt. It’s definately not healthy but I’m glad to know i’m not the only one that does this.
Hi, Ben – – –
Very insightful and candid post, as always. It’s very natural for an absence of anything (in this case, communication) to make us imagine the worst possible explanation. I love your post-it noteboard idea for keeping the positive thoughts literally right in your vision.
One “caveat” I’d offer …
… Your manager is a great communicator — some are not. Often, I’ve found that poor communicators (or lazy ones) hide behind the same phrase “I’ll let you know if there’s a problem — otherwise, assume everything is OK” as a way to avoid EVER having to communicate any feedback. For good managers, a short lapse in communication is just that — a short lapse. For bad managers, no communication is the regular state of affairs. We just need to make a distinction, I think, so that the poor managers don’t get a “free pass” on this.
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