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[b]BLUF:[/b] What should you do when a direct comes in and says they want to give you feedback about your behavior at a meeting?

:o NOTE: I know understand why Mark & Mike say I should never do this to my boss! :o

He launched into some statements about me seeming agitated, he was just trying to help me, I shouldn't interrupt people, he thought he had valid points... Inside I was suppressing a "who in the xyz do you think you are". My basic response was thank you for being honest. I disagree with your evaluation and point but I'll think about it. I re-explained my point that he disagreed with. There was a long discussion that followed. At the end I said this was a non-negotiable belief for me. But I'd watch my reaction more carefully in any future similar situation.

In my mind, I honestly have to say I was suppressing other less diplomatic thoughts... Should I have given him feedback on this feedback? I have already had two discussions with him on him sending other managers pretty condescending feedback on their directs. He's a former manager who was removed because he just didn't cut it according to HR when I asked.

[b]The Long Story[/b]
Without going into an even longer long story, a few people on the team asked to talk about some other team member in another geography not following agreed upon development guidelines after the end of a meeting. The discussion was about specific actions by individuals up to that point. This direct interrupted another team member with a comment that one person should not be at his job title. He started another sentence about that person not being up to the senior role. I cut him off and said we needed to keep this to behavior not opinions about someone else. I would not allow that sort of discussion. It is my strong belief that team members can talk about behaviors of others but not make comments on whether they feel that person's job title is correct. We then worked through 3 things for the team members to do, a few things that they agreed to consider and two conversations I would have with the remote team members.

His feedback was that when I interrupted him without listening to his whole comment, I offended him. He felt I put him down in front of the team.

My response was that I was sorry that he felt offended. I appreciated his being able to come to me. However, I felt strongly that the remark was highly improper and I would not allow it. He then said that he just used the wrong words and would have corrected himself if I let him continue. My response was that I could not let him continue and he needed to think what he says more carefully in the future.

He then responded that I was obviously agitated and over-reacted. I told him I'd consider that. However, I did not feel I was agitated or over-reacted. I was very alert because I was concerned about the direction the conversation could take. My body language was sitting up straight and focusing on the people talking. But I did not raise my voice, talk quickly, interrupt anyone else but him, argue their points, etc. So, I didn't feel I was overly agitated. But I'd keep that in mind for the future. But I came back to the basic point that I would never allow those types of comments.

At my next one-on-one with another team member, I told him I wanted to clear up any confusion from that meeting. This direct blurted out that the other direct was way out of line with the comment at the meeting. He felt embarrassed by it and he was glad to hear what I said. I said that I was told I was agitated and he responded "no way". He said I reacted really well and we're finally making progress getting the virtual team to address issues that have been here for years.

TomW's picture

[quote="MsSunshine"][b]BLUF:[/b] What should you do when a direct comes in and says they want to give you feedback about your behavior at a meeting?[/quote]

If it's professionally delivered, with dispassion, clarity, and descriptions of behavior and impact, I'd probably thank the person and consider their point.

If not, I'd return the feedback, probably along the lines of "When you provide your boss with feedback, here's what happens: You risk losing your job."

Dani Martin's picture

Ms Sunshine -- I suggest listening to the casts on how to receive feedback.
HINT: check out the blog posts and replies first. :)

http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/04/how-to-receive-feedback/
http://www.manager-tools.com/2007/04/how-to-receive-feedback-part-two/

Good luck!
Dani

AManagerTool's picture

Most people are terrible at giving feedback. They don't know the nuances like we Manager Tools managers do. They will tend to deliver it as a joke, with sarcasm, inappropriately, in anger or in another equally ineffective way simply because they don't know how to give effective feedback to their boss. To respond to it with anything other than a heartfelt "Thank You" is a huge mistake. Feedback is not insubordination.

Remember that you aspire to be better than other mangers (including yours). You are one of the enlightened elite that understands feedback. You realize that the vast majority of managers would respond with defensiveness and a sense that the direct was insubordinate and you refuse to roll like that because you realize that your direct had to muster up the courage to confront you! They probably agonized over it and it ruined their weekend and dominated a dinner conversation or two. You realize that your direct needs help giving you feedback and that your response could be, "Thank you so much. I'll take it under consideration." and then later, once the drama fades would be along the lines of constructive feedback about how his feedback was delivered with no implied threats. Even poorly formatted feedback is an attempt at helping and is not a firing offense. MT managers realize that even hinting that someone is WRONG or that we DISAGREE with the feedback is ineffective. We simply say thanks. We don't have to defend ourselves. This isn't an attack.

Hope that helps.

US41's picture

[b][size=18]No matter how the feedback is delivered, or what they say, you say, "Thank you."[/size][/b]

Any other response or any action in addition to this response is pure defensiveness and ego. What, because you're the boss you can't be told that you are interrupting other people, talking to loudly, etc?

People who cannot take feedback do not become president. People who ascend to high offices have directs who are continuously coaching and advising them.

I regret every instance of receiving feedback where I ever allowed myself to say anything beyond, "Thank you."

One of the dangers of learning of rules such as the one about why you never give feedback to your boss is adopting this rule downward toward your directs. The reason the warning is given to us is because we more than likely have jerks for bosses who cannot take feedback without getting their egos all bent out of shape. M&M are trying to protect us from our own best intentions being distorted by our bosses.

The rule is not there to empower you as a manager to cut yourself off from the best advice you will ever get: The support of your employees.

AManagerTool's picture

[quote]People who cannot take feedback do not become president.[/quote]
of companies. :cry:

US41's picture

[quote="AManagerTool"][quote]People who cannot take feedback do not become president.[/quote]
of companies. :cry:[/quote]

Just because you don't like the advice that some people get and then follow does not mean that they do not follow advice. It only means that they do not follow advice from you.

Be aware that you might have an opinion of almost anyone as being close-minded, but they are only closed to us in particular and have others to whom they are very, very open and listen to very carefully.

There are people who work with me who think getting through to me is like trying to kick through a brick wall. But I have employees who have my ear almost continuously that I am in a constant state of communication with. Those people are very informed about my overall goals and my intentions, and they help me achieve them and advise me on how to do so and give feedback when I am on or off course.

Don't let other people's frustration cause you to lose altitude of perception about what really goes on in the human experience, whether you agree with others or not. You'll end up swallowing a cartoon of a person as if it were reality and therefore jump to conclusions.

That's not really dangerous when it comes to famous people, but the habit is dangerous and the closer to you the people are, the more dangerous that habit can become.

asteriskrntt1's picture

LOL @ Tool

Great comment.

AManagerTool's picture

Thanks for the feedback 41. :wink:

HMac's picture

Don't try to do everything in one encounter (e.g., thank them, process it, discuss it, respond). This is a direct, so you have a long term relationship - and lots of opportunities to interact in the future.

So yes inded, say "thank you." Let the emotion seep out of the situation and don't compound or re-energize the emotion by saying anything defensive.

"Thank you."

Seek to understand.

And smile. Genuinely. Because you have a direct who cares enough to speak up.

-Hugh

Nik's picture

Can I give you some feedback?

When you spend time justifying your core management policies and boundaries, you create an impression that those practices are up for debate. You may want to consider a briefer response and simply explain that this particular point is not negotiable at this time, and perhaps follow up later or just adjust your behavior if you think that's justified.

Can I give you more feedback?

When you discuss one direct's behavior or feedback with another direct, you can create an impression of favoratism or the opposite among your team. You should probably limit discussions of performance and feedback to your peers and superiors, if you need to discuss them at all.

:)