Feedback Insecurities

Dear Dr. Jim,
My manager has been giving more regular feedback. I know she’s trying to be helpful and constructive. Why am I having such a tough time hearing it and feeling insecure?
– George*


Hi George,
That’s a big question! But let me take a shot at it. In what we call The Communication Loop, there is the sender of the information, or the feedback. You might be getting a sense of, “it’s not so much what they are saying, but how they are saying it.”

You may have a sense that they are being punishing or they do it at a time when you are busy, without asking if you have time to talk now. Maybe the sender of the message is inaccurate or is not being clear.

Another thing, I see this often with managers, IS they actually talk too much. When somebody is sending a message about feedback it should be very succinct: “I notice that have been 3 days late on your financial report the last 2 months.” It is very short, and it describes a behavior and outcome. Then, they should be quiet and wait for you to respond.

Now, let’s discuss the receiver side. You may be busy and you feel like you are being interrupted. Maybe you don’t respect this manager so you have difficulties taking in what they have to say. You may get defensive because you think you’ve been doing a good job, and if that’s the case the two of you should have what we call a feedforward conversation to talk together about the issues and start moving toward finding better ways of doing things.

Another issue there could be is around some kind of expectation that originally was not set very clearly. If that’s the case it’s up to you to talk to you manager to get clear on the expectations.

It could even be that personally you often feel defensive and triggered. That’s an opportunity for you to work on your emotional intelligence and be more self-aware of your triggers.

But, I would guess that it is probably a two-way street, so it’s the both of you that need to work on this. It’s up to you, if you’re having a difficulty to have a conversation with your manager, assuming you have a pretty good relationship with them and are willing to experience your courage and look over the edge of fear to clear this up. Hope this helps.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed