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Forgetting Frivolous Feedback

Can I just rant for a moment?

Have you ever noticed how asking for feedback sometimes invites frivolous, nonsensical, and insignificant information? Do some people believe that ‘I don’t have anything to offer’ is not an acceptable response? Why do they feel compelled to fill the dead air with something/anything?

I’ve encountered a couple of situations recently that bring this problem into clear focus.

A mid-level manager solicited feedback from her team on a variety of leadership competencies as part of her professional development. The analysis report was confusing, so I was asked to come in and gain a better understanding of the situation. Interviews with her staff revealed that two individuals over-emphasized issues that they admitted were not important because they “figured that’s what the questionnaire was looking for.”

A client shared very significant feedback that would have changed the direction and outcomes of a high-stakes project. When a meeting was requested to explore his perspective and revise the plan, he replied, “I’m really swamped. Just never mind. I’m good with what you originally submitted.”

A request for feedback is not an envelope that must be filled with something/anything just  to get it off your desk. A request for feedback is:

  • An invitation to engage in an important dialogue… one that you can decline if you’re not available or have nothing to offer.
  • A sacred trust… an opening from someone who values your opinion and is making him/herself vulnerable in the process.
  • A moment in time when you can make a significant difference – to a person, process, or project.

The opportunity to offer feedback in support of others is serious business. So to make sure that your feedback is focused rather than frivolous, ask yourself the following questions.

How hard am I having to work to come up with an answer?

If you are racking your brain and struggling to respond, you may not have any feedback to share. Going back in time, dredging up unrelated examples, trying to connect dots where they don’t exist does not generate meaningful or actionable feedback. So, just forget it.

How important is it?

You can likely find something to say in response to any feedback request, but what difference will it make? So, the person’s voice is a bit high… or if he or she uses a different process to get to the same results. If you can’t come up with a ‘so what’, it’s likely not worth passing along. So, just forget it.

How much am I willing to invest in helping the person address it?

This is key. Important, relevant feedback is significant enough that you should be willing to provide additional information, context, or support so that the person requesting it can take action. If it’s not worth it to you to make that investment, that might be an indicator that it doesn’t warrant sharing. So, just forget it.

Feedback requests aren’t obligations that require you to go through the motions and check the boxes. They are an honor bestowed upon you by someone who believes that you have something to offer. If you do, pass your feedback along generously.  If not, just forget it.

What about you? How cavalier are you with your feedback? How do you keep it real and valuable?

7 comments on “Forgetting Frivolous Feedback

  1. Praveen Kumar on

    Hi Julie,
    This is one more most useful post..
    in my case i will take most of the context and give my views.. feedback plays most vital role in response to what exactly is needed to the complete journey.. just like a guide in new place.. and yes some may like our feedback and may don’t! we have to take care of the matter what we are talking about. and have to prepare it well like others like it to follow. we should always address each and every point in a matter and explain them. not only in one situation.. but anywhere and anything.. because anyone who follows our feedback or tips fall in a problem.. then we are the responsible for that.. May be this is why elders said “Practice Makes Man Perfect”

    Thanks for opportunity..
    All The Best.

    • Julie Giulioni on

      Thanks, Praveen, for your always thoughtful comments. I really like your point about preparation. Even a few minutes to pull one’s thoughts together can make all the difference in the world in terms of the effectiveness of feedback. Thanks for underscoring that point!

  2. John Hoskins on

    Good one Julie. Think this whole “feedback” thing is a topic that many managers and individual contributors could spend a lot of time on. My guess is that in spite of what most people may say…Oh, I love feedback….many really don’t and particularly when they consider the source. That is why I love the G.R.O.W. model from Inside Out. In the long run as Randy Root once told me – people tolerate our conclusions about things but they act on their own conclusions. 🙂

  3. Erika on

    Dear Julie
    I ask feedback after each training intervention and find that as you are saying, few people are serious about this. If I am not willing to improve and ensure that what is presented hits the target, I should not ask for feedback.
    On the other hand, I believe in giving true sincere feedback to others. It is an important way to help you to achieve excellence in what you are doing.

    Enjoy the festive season


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