Why You Are Not Getting Feedback

Ketan Gangatirkar

VP of Engineering at Coder



I was working with a senior executive who had an unpleasant habit of standing in front of a large group and speaking extemporaneously. He would give disparaging information, off-the-cuff yet in a very affable, mild tone. I had a good relationship with this person so in a private setting and at an appropriate time I shared with him my observations. I described both strengths and weaknesses, how I thought his words were making people feel, and the possible harm they were causing. He was open and receptive to the feedback, carefully listening and trying to understand where I was coming from. He thanked me for yielding to him this information and then commented that no one ever gave him feedback like this. And I thought to myself, why is that? This was the genesis for a compiled list that I have been working on that includes reasons for why somebody is not getting feedback. Below are a few highlights from that list.

Actions taken

You don’t make yourself available
This is especially true for senior people and I don’t think they realize that they’re doing it. Making yourself available means in the physical sense, for example where you have your desk and setting up office hours, but also in an immaterial manner by being inviting and encouraging. Individuals have built-in inhibitions about visiting high-level management because they believe these leaders have much more important things to do. Instead, executives need to recognize these inhibitions and in turn use body language and physical space to show warmth and to be welcoming.

You react too quickly
When receiving information you really have to listen and let people speak their minds. You don’t want to seem disinterested but you also don’t want to engage too quickly which can be intimidating to individuals. Instead of diving in and dissecting the information right away, make that person feel comfortable and psychologically safe. Let them finish saying what they wanted, what they planned to say, and only after they have run out of things to say do you go back and try to comprehend the information they have brought to you. Let them speak their piece before you engage, otherwise the meeting will have a counterproductive effect.

Your private behavior mirrors your public demeanor
The way that you behave in meetings and on the floor also implies to individuals how you will respond in a private setting. For instance, let’s suppose you are in a meeting and somebody mentions that a bug was released in production. If your reaction, even subtly, is one of frustration and anger, if it hints at blame or negative consequences because someone made a mistake or brought bad news to you, individuals will consciously or unconsciously observe that. It will color people's perception of you and how you react. Your public demeanor transfers directly to your private behavior.

Lessons learned

I have spent a lot of time observing people who are bad at receiving feedback. These are just a few examples. The list I have is extensive, long-running, and I am continually adding to it. I have brought some of these points up to individuals in a haphazard manner, which I believe has been useful for the time being.

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Ketan Gangatirkar

VP of Engineering at Coder

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesIndividual Contributor RolesTeam & Project Management

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