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One of your main responsibilities as a manager is to provide constructive and actionable feedback to your team. This is a critical part of your contribution to professional development and the success of your company. No matter how constructive your comments may be, they trigger a spectrum of responses – some are more positive than others.
How an employee metabolizes feedback indicates growth potential and can determine how much to invest in their training and coaching. However, the way someone receives feedback is more nuanced than a simple one-word answer. Here are five common ways employees can get feedback, along with what it can signal to a manager:
1. Accuse external circumstances
This style distracts responsibility and blames anyone or everything that is within reach. Employees who respond in this way may say, "Urgent personal issues distracted me" or "There are too many conflicting priorities on my plate right now" or "My teammate never told me this was urgent."
This style of reception – what psychologists call selfish bias – signals a lack of accountability. You may be willing to accept an external explanation once, but afterwards it becomes an excuse. In the long run, this trait tells you that the person has limited upside potential.
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2. Defensiveness and Denial
Defensiveness manifests itself in a number of ways, such as: B. by minimizing a problem with the work product, as if reacting blindly to the feedback and viewing your feedback as a personal attack. People in this category defend the quality of the output even after explaining why it is not profitable and insist that you simply do not see its value.
Alternatively, your rep can agree that the output is in error, but minimize or invalidate the consequences of the error. You might say something like, "It's not that great, but it's not a big deal – the customer isn't coming until next week, so I'll have plenty of time to fix it."
Through a macro lens, these invalid responses are likely to signal a worrying misalignment with the values of the organization. At a more individual level, this type of employee may have issues with quality, clarity of thought, and the ability to follow instructions. These responses indicate that your employee is internalizing the feedback as a personal attack rather than an opportunity to improve performance.
3. Passive acceptance
Even if someone seems to accept the problem and take responsibility, sometimes there can still be a problem. If the person accepts criticism passively and without further questioning or engagement, you may not have a buy-in.
This kind of reception triggers responses like, "This could have been better, but I really don't know there was anything I could have done." If you hear anything along these lines, you will likely get a similar outcome to those who immediately decline feedback. Just because a person isn't combative doesn't mean they internalize the feedback. You may be able to include them again, but if that type of response is their norm, you may be dealing with someone who refuses to make changes.
Related Topics: How To Effectively Give Feedback To Employees (And Why It Is Important)
4. Acceptance with causality
Not to be confused with employees blaming the external circumstances, these individuals provide a real explanation for the shortcomings in job performance. They don't give excuses, but addressable barriers. This person accepts the problem without recoil and makes a note of the reasons, under their control or influence, that are causing the problem in the first place.
This answer shows you that the employee is committed and wants to solve the problem, and signals a willingness and desire to take responsibility. Instead of apologizing, these employees fix bugs. The main difference is whether an employee's reasons are under their control.
5. Motivated acceptance
Like the answer mentioned earlier, this style is a positive form of acceptance. But what makes this type of feedback reaction stand out is that it is forward-looking rather than causal. Your rep may not understand exactly what caused the problem, but they want to do better next time.
The motivated acceptance of feedback also shows the coaching ability and what the psychology professor Carol Dweck called "growth philosophy". This mindset reflects the idea that one's abilities are compliant, while a “fixed mindset” suggests that a person's abilities are fixed personal characteristics. When someone sees the potential for growth in their skills, they are likely to see feedback as an opportunity to learn something new and improve their work.
Put everything together
Coachability is a pretty reliable indicator of room for improvement. If it is consistently absent, you may need to reconsider further investments in training, outside coursework, or management time spent running someone. Instead, focus resources on the people who want to take feedback, grow, and take on the next available challenge.
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