In 1964, the Beatles added something interesting to one of their songs. I Feel Fine started out with a twang of feedback. It wasn’t planned to happen, but by a happy accident, the first use of feedback in a song was created (and it wouldn’t be the last, which you know if you have ever heard of Jimi Hendrix.)
Of course, the feedback I want to discuss today has nothing to do with audio looped circularly through a speaker, amp, and microphone. Instead, I want to talk about the feedback we get from others about the work we do.
Early in my career, in fact in my second job as a DBA, I had a boss who, for the life of me I couldn’t read. I rarely received feedback from this person, and I didn’t really know if I was doing a good enough job. One day, he called me into his office, had me close the door. He instructed me to have a seat and he put a piece of paper on the table. I was still in my 20s, so the cardiac event I experienced was mild, but it was still memorable. I had just been…given a substantial raise. Thank you for doing a good job.
Since then, I have given and received a lot of feedback, and I often think back to that day as I am giving it. I wasn’t sure what was about to happen and that is not how it should be. The more feedback you can get and give the better. No one should be unsure as to where they stand. At the very least, no one should ever have even a mild cardiac event when they are getting a raise.
While I have never been a professional manager before (something I decided after my attempts at being an assistant manager at a Wendy’s long before I moved into tech), I have always desired to get feedback on the job I am doing (even if it still cares me!). Good or bad, it is better to know how you are doing in your job, or really in your life.
One place where I do tend to give and get a lot of feedback is in writing. As the editor of the Simple-Talk website, I regularly give feedback to writers. I do my best to give honest, useful, kind, but occasionally harsh feedback. As a writer myself, I know the value of this…the goal is a great product and sometimes it hurts to hear what you have written is not in that category. (It happens to the best of us!)
The most important adjective in the previous paragraph was kind. Sometimes feedback does needs to be harsh. But my first experience as a writer was on a book with 10 technical editors and a few development editors. They beat me up so much in a way that while it did make the book better, it occasionally really hurt my feelings. When it was all said and done, I never wanted to be someone who delivered feedback in this manner. Nitpicky feedback that strives for the best outcome doesn’t have to feel like a bat to the back of the head.
So anytime you give feedback to people, try your best to do it in the kindest way possible, but also the most honest too. People you work with and for just want to know how they might improve.