Office Diaries

An insider's guide to success in the workplace

What Reality TV Teaches Us about Giving and Receiving Feedback

The reality of reality shows is the value of feedback.

I never thought I'd see the day that I'd be saying this... but, I think there is something important for us to learn from reality shows. They demystify criticism and make giving and receiving feedback mainstream in a way that we've not seen before, at least, not publicly on the scale of millions of people.

It's one of the biggest management challenges I see in business today. In fact, of all the training programs we are hired to do, performance evaluation and feedback are by far the most common. Yet even with all of the effort and resources devoted to improving conversations around performance, companies still wrestle with how to communicate with employees in a productive, useful and constructive way.

Here's where I think the reality show model can help. A perception persists in Corporate America that direct and honest feedback hurts rather than helps productivity and morale. People see it as negative and critical and because of that, they avoid it at all costs. Typically, managers don't want to hurt or offend their employees' feelings and as a result, they never develop the skills to do it well.

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So, if we were to borrow several tricks from the likes of Donald Trump, Heidi Klum, Simon, Kara, Ellen and Randy, these would be the three best in my opinion.

1. Saying it like it is: You can tell someone that he or she totally missed the point or mark and it doesn't have to mean anything more than that.
2. Knowing where you stand: People appreciate knowing how they are doing and not having to guess.
3. Getting important information: Feedback is not bad, nor personal, but necessary.

By telling someone that he or she is doing something that is not working, you offer a truth and clarity that can help both sides further their understanding, do something about it and move on. But in order for this to be effective, there must also be an implicit appreciation for the information on the receiving end as well. This will depend on the kind of organization a company has built and culture it has. Think about the participants on the shows. They already come feeling positive due merely to the fact that they'd been chosen, which means that the work environment has to be one that instills confidence, not fear. Granted, the contestants are "ready for it" because they expect to hear whether they've won or lost, and why. So, why not create a similar dynamic at work?   Or, I know! Wouldn't it be fun to turn a day at work into a realty show and see what happens? Maybe that will be our next training class.

 

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Krysalis

Donna Flagg is the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and a New York City-based dancer.

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