Why nobody cares about your “two cents”

Carlos Paz
Oct 22, 2018 · 2 min read

“My two cents” is now a common phrase in many workplaces, used when someone wants to make a small suggestion on someone else’s work. When done correctly, feedback can help improve the overall product, but giving “only” two cents can result in a lack of ownership and motivation.

Most product development teams include a copywriter and designer — roles that receive the majority of “my two cents” suggestions. Design and copy are often seen as areas “easy” to provide feedback on as they involve elements of skills we use daily, such as writing. You probably wouldn’t feel comfortable giving feedback to your data scientist when they say that they’re going to use a K-Nearest Neighbors algorithm for the model, unless you really knew about algorithms.

But what we sometimes don’t realize is that this type of “two cents” feedback can have a big impact on the person that receives it, usually revolving around motivation and sense of ownership.

Imagine this: A designer finishes working on their story and shows you the final design. You like what you see, but suggest that they could make the big button a bit bigger and the blue button more blue. Since your designer likely said they are open to feedback, they decide to change the design based on your opinion, but at the cost of feeling a loss of ownership over their design, and this just because of “two cents”.

On the other hand, imagine if a designer would show you the final design and you would say “Nice work. I like the visuals and the new approach to addressing user needs!” This subtle change makes a big difference in the psychology of motivation, making the team member feel full ownership of the product they’ve designed. Hopefully, this will help the designer build confidence in these areas and increase their involvement and commitment moving forward.

Of course, there are situations where you can see something is off and constructive feedback needs to be shared. For example, if you have strong evidence from recent user research or experimentation results. In these situations, there are a few best practice tips you can follow for giving constructive feedback:

  • Give feedback early, and make it an open discussion
  • Back up your feedback with findings/data (don’t just make it your opinion)
  • Ask the person how they prefer to receive feedback (face to face, email, comment on document, etc.)

So probably next time you have “two cents”, just let it go, and only share this after you have saved at least one euro. ;)

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