Keep Giving Feedback
The failure to give appropriate and timely feedback is the most extreme cruelty
that we can inflict on any human being.
—Charles Coonradt, management consultant
Human beings crave feedback. Try ignoring any 3-year-old. At first, he will
ask for positive attention, but if he is continually ignored, soon you will hear a
loud crash or cry, because any feedback, even negative feedback, is better than
Some people think that principle only applies to children. But it applies even
more to adults. The cruelest form of punishment in prison is solitary
confinement. Most prisoners will do anything—even temporarily improve their
behavior—to avoid being in a situation with little or no feedback.
You may have briefly experienced the relaxing effect of a sensory deprivation
chamber. You are placed for a few minutes in a dark, cocoon-like chamber,
floating in body-temperature saltwater, with all light and sound cut off. It’s great
for a few minutes. But not for long.
One day the sole worker at one of these sensory-deprivation tanks walked off
the job in a huff over some injustice at work, leaving a customer trapped in the
chamber. Several hours later, the customer was rescued, but still had to be
hospitalized. Not from any physical abuse, but from the psychosis caused by
deprivation of sensory feedback. What occurs when all outside feedback is cut
off is that the mind manufactures its own sensory feedback in the form of
hallucinations that often personify the person’s worst fears. The resulting
nightmares and terrors can drive even normal people to the point of insanity.
Your own people are no different. If you cut off the feedback, their minds will
manufacture their own feedback, quite often based on their worst fears. It’s no
accident that trust and communication are the two organizational problems most
often cited by employee surveys.
Human beings crave real feedback, not just some patronizing, pacifying
words. The managers who have the biggest trouble motivating their people are
the ones who give the least feedback. And when their people ask, “How are we
doing?” they say, “Well I don’t know, I haven’t looked at the printout or
anything, but I have a sense that we’re doing pretty well this month.”
Those managers have a much harder time inspiring achievement in their
teams. Achievement requires continuous feedback. And if you’re going to get
the most out of your people, it’s imperative that you be the one who is the most
up on what the numbers are and what they mean. Motivators do their homework.
They know the score. And they keep feeding the score back to their people