How Process Feedback at Work Without Triggering a Stress Response

Namrata Rao

Senior Manager, Product Management at Salesforce.com


Taking Upward Feedback Seriously

The higher you climb the career ladder, the less likely you will receive any feedback as the manager. Nobody wants to offend the boss!

Early in my management career, I did not have direct reportees, but I was more involved in coaching individuals to help them grow. When I had a small, mighty team of about 3 - 4 people to manage, and as my first time managing that many people, the best thing for me was to gauge the best possible things I could do for them. With diverse personalities of individuals, during a performance review, I was doing everything great as a manager, except the part that I was not successfully delegating.

“She’s taking charge of everything and doing everything on her own,” were the words from the direct reports.

I was indeed surprised to hear that because, in my mind, I was trying to help my team by not giving them extra work. Not to overload anybody, I would take over smaller tasks like leading a group meeting, taking charge, and driving the agenda, which did not help.

Seek to Understand, Listen and Collaborate

One of the first actions that I always resort to is open communication. I sat down with my team members over one-on-ones, whereby I brought up the topic. “I had a performance review, where I saw comments regarding a certain area. Unabashedly, I want you to let me know if that is what you think of me,” were my words.

Furthermore, I asked them for specific examples and kept the conversation going to understand better what was missing. It was also evident that there were no repercussions even if my team members did drop in any other kind of feedback. The point was to encourage them to be open, which helped.

After listening to them, the next step was to process it very clearly and not be biased around anything. Instead of looking at their words as being entirely right or wrong, I looked at them from a neutral perspective to give myself the time. Taking the time to process the feedback and going back to my mentors to ask them how to proceed with the situation was my second take on the circumstance.

Communicating with mentors based on the feedback was the key to absorbing it even better.

Last but not least, as I processed the feedback and got suggestions from my mentors, I found better ways to deal with them. It was evident that whatever action I would take as a manager, if it was to benefit my team, I should be very open about it, rather than keeping it to myself.

For instance, if I were to take charge of a meeting, I would need to specify the reason behind it, perhaps because I felt they were overloaded. Also, leaving the door for others to take control of the meeting is something that I made to become comfortable with. Over communicating was the requisite, instead of holding things back to myself.

Moving forward, any work that would come along the way, I would not assume that they are overloaded anymore. Instead, I would present it to the team and let them choose who wanted to take the project up. In any case, if everyone were busy, I would figure out a way to get the work done.

Assess Rationally and Logically

  • If people are generally being asked for feedback, they might not say it aloud. However, I realized that there was always more feedback if I went back and asked them specifically after a meeting or a context. Keeping the conversations open but making them more specific helps gather better feedback.
  • Having open conversations and taking the time to process feedback with the help of folks who have done it before is undoubtedly helpful.
  • Instead of assuming anything early on, communicate. Besides, over-communicating your intentions, clear understanding, and asking for specific feedback does the trick.

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Namrata Rao

Senior Manager, Product Management at Salesforce.com

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationMentorship ProgramsPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor RolesLeadership RolesTeam & Project Management

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