People often say that a good indicator of a healthy team is the willingness of its members to give feedback (and vice versa). Let’s parse this out.

First off, I think it’s safe to say that the type of feedback people struggle to provide is usually negative (also known as “constructive” in corporate speak). I think that most of us have little difficulty with saying “attaboy!“, but not “you suck“.

Yet there are teams who have seemingly no problem at all delivering negative feedback. Why is that?

Well, some of it has to do with the personality types involved. Certain organizations make it a point to recruit those willing to speak candidly to peers. Naturally, with enough such people on a team, giving feedback becomes no big deal.

But I think it does deeper than that. I think that delivering negative feedback is a lot harder when you consider the other person to be incompetent. After all, what’s the use of telling someone they suck if you don’t believe they can do anything about it? Would you tell someone too short to dunk that they are no good at dunking?

Delivering negative feedback is painful for all parties involved. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and you can’t help but feel guilty for doing it. Why put yourself through that for no good reason? Most people don’t and who can blame them.

So, what does this mean for your team? Well, if people are hesitant to give feedback, it could be that you don’t have enough people who’re comfortable doing the uncomfortable. That’s not great, but it’s not fatal.

On the other hand, it could be that your team is full of people too short to dunk. Now that is something to lose sleep over.

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This post got 2 comments so far. Care to add yours?

  1. Impatient says:

    Interesting article along those same lines: Constructive Candor: