Feedback – doesn’t the thought of it it make you shudder? “Meg you did this (insert insincerity of your choice) really well, but when you did this (insert awkward critique) it impacted the time we spent on that, but you are doing valuable work. Carry on now.” Everyone looks relieved. It’s over. I wonder when we started using feedback as a workplace methodology. One of those metaphors perhaps to keep command and control alive? Is it an attempt to mechanise, to simplify, to depersonalise what is most complex and challenging and beautiful and terrifying for us all – the relational aspects of being human?
One organisation I worked in had a “feedback culture”. People were given feedback at every opportunity; it seemed to me like an opportunity to freely criticise others without any personal responsibility. I think it reinforced the cultural norms of avoidance, not broke it down; people felt drained at the amount of feedback. It looked like an intrusion to me.
When work is designed in such a way that the work itself provides feedback – so I know whether I’ve done good work or not, because I will see the impact of my efforts, then feedback happens all the time. When regular space is made to be together in work as community, feedback within that system will automatically happen, because the more time people spend together, the more that trust builds, so that reflection/reflexivity becomes inherent in feeding the system. If we’re real with one another, and we have shared aims, know the common ground, we’ll be discussing how we are as well as what we do. It’s natural, it happens all the time if the conditions are created for community. Peer feedback – it has the most impact as opposed to the vertical type. – a healthy, trusting, clear sighted community – it’ll mostly happen naturally between us all. Sometimes, I just want to tell you that you did that thing so well, it inspired me to try a bit harder in something I was aiming for. Is that feedback? Or is it just me sharing how you have impacted me positively. Sometimes, I need to be guided to understand the negative impact of something I said and did on others. is that feedback or someone sharing how I have impacted someone or something negatively? If we’re regularly in dialogue with each other, then feedback is a natural systemic occurrence. If I’ve got to give you a sandwich, it ain’t feedback. It’s foodback.