Written feedback

June 26, 2013

As a freelancer at various places, I often get asked to provide written feedback for people’s appraisals. They often seem to land in my inbox in clusters  and if I get too many all at the same time it becomes onerous. But an occasional one here and there can be a useful distraction.

I never do it anonymously and I always tick the box that I’m happy for it to be shared with the individual. Or I send it directly to them. Hopefully none of what I say will be a complete surprise, but of course seeing things in black and white can concentrate the mind. And thankfully most of it is affirmative – and a chance to give people that positive reinforcement that no one is immune to. But I don’t shy away from saying what I think.
Sometimes it is easy, other times I really have to rack my brains to illustrate my bletherings with real and recent examples. Because I don’t think it is fair to assert things without giving some kind of context – apart from my general introductory impressions – XYZ is a pleasure to work with; she is polite, punctual and positive in outlook. Kind of thing. But when I need to say XYZ has difficulty making decisions, or appears unable to understand the most basic of facts, or demonstrates a jaw dropping disregard for others’ feelings then I feel it only right that I back it up with some evidence.

It pisses me off no end when people don’t give honest feedback. It is a waste of everyone’s time, including your own (assuming you are writing it), if you just rattle off some bland, say-nothing rubbish. You have usually been chosen to feedback on this person because you do interact with them in some way and this is a chance to actually say how you think they are doing. It is only your opinion. You will only be one voice in a number, but if the same things crop up in others’ feedback, then perhaps it is an area worth exploring. Too often I hear everyone saying that someone is shit at their job and yet come feedback time, there is nothing negative recorded. “Oh, I didn’t want to be the one that made them lose their job”. That seems an incredibly negative view of the feedback process – surely the point of it is to help the individual determine how to get better at their job? (Or, in the case of many folk, even better.) And for the organisation to help them do that.

So it takes time. When  it is  to be written, I am sometimes given a template to work from, other times it is just freeform. But however it is asked for, I do try to take the time to give a constructive responsive if I have enough experience working with the individual to do so.

And I find it a good lesson to actually stop and assess someone over the last six months or whatever. Particularly if previously I have fed back a number of “areas for growth” or “development opportunities” (aka shortcomings) It is salutary to realise XYZ no longer does that and has taken on board the feedback and has developed. Not as a result of anything I’ve done, but because they have listened to the feedback and actually acted on it. Or got help to act on it. However they have done it matters not to me, but the very fact they have is energising. And proof that we can change if we put our mind to it. Sometimes we just don’t realise we need to and it takes a feedback session to point it out.
And then it makes them better at their job and I imagine happier in their work.

It’s a win for them, a win for me and a win for the business.


4 Responses to “Written feedback”

  1. t upchurch Says:

    Oh yeah… I remember that feedback, “difficulty making decisions, appears unable to understand the most basic of facts, and demonstrates a jaw dropping disregard for others’ feelings”. Halcyon days!

  2. Georgie Says:

    You posted this just as I have started reading people’s past appraisals here and started the process of asking colleagues and clients for feedback – spooky! x

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