At Wunderman Thompson Technology, feedback is not just a buzzword - it is the cornerstone of our culture. It underpins many of our activities, from day-to-day interactions with colleagues to more formal milestones like a mid-year development meeting. We use it as a swiss-army-knife tool to help us grow as individuals, improve teamwork, resolve potential conflicts, etc. That is why, we often say we have a 'culture of feedback'. But what does that mean exactly and can a culture like that be created?
The company can give employees tools and apply various actions to facilitate feedback processes. That would definitely
be a step in the right direction - but would that be enough? Our management frequently encourages us to comment on their
ideas and, whenever possible, addresses our remarks. They as individuals are approachable, and we know we can talk to
them about anything without being perceived as disobedient. Anyone can question anything and won’t be criticized for it.
By doing so, they lead by example, and we know that when they say we have a feedback culture, it’s not just empty words!
...If we imagined a different situation in contrast - if for example the management told the staff they should give feedback openly, but at the same time, they as individuals were not at all open to any kind of remarks and liked to govern authoritatively, would this kind of message have any effect? I believe not! If general atmosphere at work contradicted open communication and constructive criticism, no tool or initiative would do the trick.
Of course it’s not only the management that influences the atmosphere at work. At Wunderman Thompson Technology, from day one we are encouraged by our colleagues to ask questions frequently and request their help when needed. Nobody acts bothered when interrupted but instead provides answers gladly. The same goes for constructive criticism - when we disagree with something, we can question it openly without repercussions. And that is another 'fertilizer' for growing the feedback culture!
What more can we as employees do to be part of fostering feedback culture within the organization?
We can be open to any feedback and always find time to receive it. When giving feedback on the other hand, we can employ one of the proven communication methods, like ‘FUKO’ (pol. Fakty, Uczucia, Konsekwencje, Oczekiwania), which stands for Facts, Emotions, Consequences, Expectations. That, in short, means: starting with facts (giving examples of real-life situations), expressing our emotions (while refraining from judging the recipient's motives), describing potential consequences and finishing with our expectations.
In general, good rule of thumb is staying empathetic and thinking about other peoples feelings.
That seems simple enough in theory, but can be challenging in practice, because talking about feelings, especially at
work, is often hard. Another hindrance can be the fear of damaging the relationship with the coworker. We don’t know how
they will react to what we have to say. They might take it personally and treat it as personal criticism. It depends on
many things, like on how they manage their emotions in professional situations, and is hard to predict. They might for
example, criticize us back in a form of defense mechanism. In such case - we should not get pulled into an argument, but
rather gently bring back the conversation to the facts. Personally - when receiving feedback - I'm focused on two
things. Apart from focusing on what the other person is saying, I also try to monitor what kind of emotional response it
is generating within me.
I do that, because being mindful of my emotions gives me a chance to choose how I'll respond. Otherwise, my reaction might be automatic and I might for example enter a defensive mode, instead of absorbing the valuable information.
Another thing we can do to facilitate feedback process is to behave in a way that will make the other person inclined to provide us with feedback in the future. For example - let’s listen carefully instead of forcefully trying to prove that the other person is wrong in their perceptions. Every minute we spend talking is a minute we might have spent listening! And even if we ‘win’ the argument, we might lose a chance to get feedback in the future. Finally – let's be sure to thank our colleague for providing hirs remarks. Feedback is a gift, so let's treat it as such! It’s a rare opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of another. It gives us a chance to notice things about ourselves that were in our blind spot and can help us improve as professionals and as individuals.
All in all, there is no simple recipe for feedback culture. It's definitely not something that can be created overnight, but should rather evolve overtime. I believe the best way to go, is to let such work culture grow organically, branching out from other values, like: openness, transparency, accountability, empathy, and leading by example. We as colleagues, managers and leaders, can facilitate that by manifesting those values in our day-to-day interactions.
Hero image by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash, opens in a new window