The Curse of Anonymous Feedback
“Et tu, Brute?” -William Shakespeare
Best selling business book author, Ken Blanchard often says that, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” It is the fuel that provides us with information that helps redirect our efforts, driving us to become the best we can at a given skill or task.
Motivational research clearly shows that constructive feedback is a gift, and helps increase passion for our responsibilities—at work and at play. Thoughtful, well-intentioned, and timely feedback provides individuals with critical input into the adjustments we need to make as self leaders.
While feedback can be a gift, there can be a dark side to feedback that should be avoided at all costs within organizations and teams. The curse of anonymous feedback can have the opposite effect of constructive feedback, serving as a destructive force to positive change.
One of the most difficult and demotivating forms of feedback we can receive in the workplace is the type of information that creeps into our minds under cloak and dagger. The email or instant message sent to a third party, which in turn is sent to a manager or colleague, in hopes of making a person aware of some abstract dissatisfaction with a person’s performance or personality, is a difficult and sometimes dangerous form of communication.
The primary problem with anonymous feedback is that it lacks direct and clear feedback. In the three degrees (sometimes more) of separation from the author’s lips to the recipient’s ears, is a deep canyon of incomplete information and perceptions that may dilute the meaning of potentially helpful feedback—regardless of how accurate the feedback really is.
Secondarily, anonymous feedback is demotivating for teams and individuals, because it has a tendency to keep important and potentially creative conflicts off of the table of resolution and sets them adrift into a valley of disillusion. There is no proper path to resolutions. The more organizations and leaders are afraid of conflict, and don’t address it head on, the less opportunity they create for themselves to use that conflict as a creative driving force to better solutions.
When serving up a hot dish of feedback at work, or at home, take the time to overcome any assumptions you may have about giving the feedback. Season the feedback with your best assumptions about the person you are giving the feedback to. Be direct and clear and keep an open mind and ear for potential solutions or ideas to help make the learning process more efficient and effective.
Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action