Last month, I received feedback by email that included this sentence: “You gave verbal explanations of each point and systematically wrote any new vocabulary or expressions in the chat or as annotations in the documents to help the participants memorise them”. That feedback had only positive points and a strong nudge to continue the good work. It was her first time observing my online class. In previous years, the former “quality enforcer” always had “one thing” added to “continue the job well done”; I philosophised that she was making her position more worthwhile. At least, I knew who provided the feedback, and I had the opportunity to explain the whys of what I did.
Training participants are always encouraged to fill in anonymous online forms to rate the “quality” of their trainers. The original intention is to help improve the learning or training experience. However, it can become a revenge tool. Positive ratings and comments are rare from participants or students who have failed or received lower-than-expected grades. Non-constructive feedback derails progress and jeopardises “room for improvement” efforts.
At work, “evaluation” is a more appropriate word than “feedback”. The former is an assessment or judgement based on evidence, data and observations. A regular (i.e. once, twice or thrice a year) work appraisal is an evaluation and cannot be anonymous. Whereas the latter is about giving a message to help receivers shape behaviours that will assist them to improve their skills and performance.
Even with the enforcement of anti-harassment legislation and policy, some feedback continues to include comments about appearance (untidy hair), attire (scruffy), insults (trash, senile), and blaming.
Results of both evaluation and feedback affect one’s well-being, mental health, and personal and professional relationships. Therefore, should those involved hide under the blanket of anonymity? How about when there’s a power imbalance and threat of reprisal or punishment?
The basic fundamentals when giving feedback and evaluation are sincerity, sensitivity, truthfulness, specificity, appropriate language, professionalism, and timeliness. They should be prepared and not given haphazardly.
At work, honest and meaningful feedback and evaluation can motivate employees to perform better in their tasks and open lines of communication, resulting in productivity and contented employees.
An evaluation should be a two-way street; thus, it should not be anonymous. Managers and supervisors should be told the right and ineffective things they do, whereas feedback can be anonymous.
If we want to know whether such feedback is true and sincere, we should consider it positively. Then, ask ourselves if we have received similar feedback from other people (Oh, this comment sounds familiar). How can we use it in a constructive way even though we don’t agree with it? Since it rings a bell, it must be valid and important.
Feedback doesn’t have to be formal. Upon completion of my course, I often receive emails of appreciation and thank you from participants. One of these included two paintings; the artist – Raffaella Cetrulo – has given me her permission to include them here. I have chosen the painting of owls because my late aunt-in-law, who had a handsome collection of owl figurines and statuettes, had said she liked them for their big, wide eyes that give an impression they were watching her. Unlike her, I associate owls with evils because they are awake and active at night. In some cultures, they are considered guardians for a safe morning to come.
Whatever we do these days, there are owls – “walls have ears and eyes”. When we are stressed because someone is looking over our shoulders, let’s think of Athena of ancient Greek mythology. She kept an owl on her shoulder believing it was a blessing that revealed truths and wisdom.
The sandwich approach is often used when giving feedback, i.e. the negative statement is placed between two positive ones. Bear in mind that constructive, negative feedback can get lost in the middle of praises. Likewise, it is likely that only negative comments are remembered, and the receivers become bitter and disillusioned. They might philosophise using this adage: “When I’m right, no one remembers; when I’m wrong, no one forgets”.
All the best when giving and receiving feedback.
I hope you’ve time to read my story “Tongues wagging over Freggy” in https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/8wrcja/ (I can’t wait to have your feedback. Clicking “like” will go a long way. Thank you.)