Giving feedback can feel bad. But you should still do it.
Edit: I wrote this post a few weeks ago but I wanted to ask the people indirectly mentioned in this if they are ok with me posting this. Therefore I am posting this just now.
When I was a kid in highschool I always was one of those that would get bad participation grades because I would never raise my hand when the teacher asked a question.
It’s not that I never knew the answers it was just that well known fear of saying something wrong that I was scared of. Imagine people would thinking I was stupid. Unimaginable.
Giving feedback is pretty much the same thing as answering questions in that regard: You are supposed to do it, but the risk of saying something wrong that would make people think differently about you is still there.
So, the first years of my working life I was very sparse in giving feedback. I would do it whenever it was demanded but not more often than that. And I was ok with that.
But like in my schooldays I did not feel like I had nothing to say or that my thoughts were not valuable. It was just the fear of misunderstanding and stepping on someones toes that would keep me from giving feedback.
But with growing more into my working self, getting a little bit more experience and also finding a workplace where I feel more comfortable doing so, I started giving more proactive feedback to teams, colleagues and superiors. It feels way better than not sharing the impressions of my surrounding work environment. In the end this is a major way that I can influence how that place is shaping up in the future.
But not everything always feels good about giving feedback and one always puts himself out there when talking about things that might not be super comfortable to talk about.
Recently, I was helping out on another teams project that had a release coming up and needed some support in their frontend development.
We were on a tight deadline and had to get stuff done so everyone was piling up a bunch of extra hours. I am not a big fan of extra hours for various reasons but in this case I did not mind them as this is a somewhat special project and the deadline was fixed.
So we got done what we wanted to do and I went back to my regular team. Also I arranged a meeting with two of the people responsible for that project to give feedback about that week of working on it.
That meeting was today. We sat down together and I started talking about what and how I perceived the project and the way work is done within the team.
The project is sometimes seen from the outside as one where extra hours are tolerated in order to get an important and disruptive project on the road.
So one of my main topics during the meeting were extra hours, compensation and how I see them critically.
About half way through the meeting one of the guys stopped me and said based on some of the things I said he felt like I was not really motivated and somewhat lacked a feeling of responsibility for the companies success and that this was concerning to him.
That answer caught me off guard. For a moment I was in a lack of words. This was not what I thought of myself but I could see how from a certain perspective the things that I just said could be understood like that.
After I sorted out my thoughts for a little bit I tried to clarify what I ment and in the end we got our communication together and I think we were able to mostly clarify the meaning of my words.
But nonetheless when i came out of the meeting I felt somewhat of a bitter taste about it.
Did I just worsten my professional standing within the company? Did I present myself as someone who doesn’t care about the future of the company? DO I not care about the company? Was it even a good idea to give that feedback?
While these where all thoughts that came immediately after the meeting and most of them I already dismissed as I value the company and everyone that works there very highly and don’t think my thoughts and idea of successful work will be held against me, I am still working through that little nag it put into my head.
But one thing I am certain about. And that is that it was good and necessary to give that feedback. Because while I respect and understand their approach to that project and can see why they work the way they work, I am still not a big fan of it and think it is not a sustainable way to go for a longer period of time. While they agreed on that and I truly believe in them adjusting their workload in the future, it is always a good thing to hear those things from another perspective. I hope it will help them figure out their next steps and it is my best possibility to influence the direction of a very nice company that I care about being successful for a long time in the future.
I am also sure that I did what my company wants me to do. Feedback is very encouraged here. There are workshops, guidelines and regular, optional as well as obligatory meetings that are there to help you give and get feedback to colleagues on different levels.
in conclusion, giving feedback is almost always better than not giving feedback and should be regarded as a responsibility and a privilege by anyone working with other people. Even if it is not always pleasant. On the long run it will make you feel good.
At the end I want to make clear that I know both colleagues very well and I know they act with the best intentions and are more than smart enough to make the right decisions whatever they are. Everything we talked about was handled professionally and we left the meeting with no bad feelings and they thanked me for my feedback.
By now I think they understood my points and I understood theirs and I will not hesitate to do any other feedback meeting with them in the future.