A test engineer working to test an application seemingly works hard to find an all important bug that is potentially a show stopper. He later takes care of all the possible details to log the defect. This defect goes into the series of confrontations with the Development team and after much of back and forth, the development team agrees to fix the defect. This makes the test engineer happy but he does not get to hear any words about his effort from his superior or for that matter none of his colleagues respond back on good skills that he displayed.
Sounds a familiar situation! It might be. I think most of us have gone through such an event or may be would have gone through it so many times that we have stopped caring that someone would respond.
Reciting the above story again and this time say the end response is changed. The superior of the test engineer looses his temper on him when the confrontation with the Development team was happening without understanding the bigger picture of what he was trying to achieve. This definitely is an unreasonable response but not a unique one. Most of the people face the situation when they get reprimanded prematurely. I have faced it . You must have faced it too.
The question here is not how often you have faced outcomes in Scenario# 1 and 2 in your work life or how you responded when faced with this situation. But i think the bigger question seemingly is what are the prime factors that lead to such situations ? The prime factors not pertaining to the individual at the receiving end but largely why such situations arise.
Primarily, Why does an individual seek a response to any work done by him or her ?
Note that i have chosen the word "response" instead of "feedback" here. The prime reason for that is because the feedback can be positive or negative but the response to a particular situation may vary depending upon the context.
Any individual may seek a response to his or her work for myraid of reasons. One of the greatest reasons is Self esteem needs. If an individual feels he has done a good work,depending upon a kind of person he/she is- may seek approval from others to feel good himself. Self esteem needs are the most basic of the human needs and if it is not met, the individual will tend to be discouraged in a longer run. Every employee in true sense seeks that "feel good" factor from the job he is doing. It is one of the intangible benefits that an organization can provide in addition to all the incentives etc.
Other reason can be seeking the ways to improve his or her efforts. By giving right response, an Individual can enhance the work performance manifold.
One way a response to work can help is showing what is the "right" way to do a task in a given context.
Does the response needs to be given only by his superior ?
The answer to this question may be tricky as it largely depends upon the Organization or team culture as setup by the Group head. Going by the traditional model, the feedback of a certain task is given by one's superior only. But the avenues of an employee to improve does not end at the Superior's feedback given the fact that Superior may be working under several external forces when undertaking a feedback session. The employees truly looking to improve upon their work skills do not solely rely on feedback from superior and seek the improvement ideas from all possible quarters in a professional manner. I strongly beleive that for a success of team, followership is more important than leadership. One of the key responsibilities of a follower is to seek feedback and also give feedback. The practice of giving feedback may vary depending upon the organizational culture. Please note that the word "Follower" is generally looked down upon by certain section of employees. In my world, a follower is the most important element of a team and plays a crucial role to make the leader, the team and the organization successful.
Ken Blanchard's "response model":
I think it is apt to discuss the "response model" suggested by Ken Blanchard in his book- the little book of coaching
There are 4 ways in which a coach can respond when the team member does some work-
1. No response:
It means no acknowledgement what-so-ever of the work done.
2. Negative response:
It means that the coach is always on the look out for a mistake and blasts off, if it happens (how-so-ever minor).
3. Redirection response:
It means that the coach helps the employee understand the correct way and helps redirect the energies of the employee towards the goals when a mistake or failure happens.
4. Positive response:
It means that the coach makes an efforts to find the positive things and bestows a genuine appreciation for the good job done.
The responses# 1 and 2 above are quite common in today’s work place and infact these responses are easy in a way and for most people it do not require any effort at all. It is very easy for the Coaches to come up with these responses being in their comfort zones. In my experience, the no response is sometimes more dangerous than a negative response as it instills the doubt in an employee’s minds as to whether his work is worthwhile to the organization afterall.
Most coaches struggle to give responses# 3 and 4. Giving an heart-felt praise or an honest redirection requires guts and courage to leave that typical comfort zone- a skill that doesnt come naturally to many. But the fact of the matter is that a Redirection response or a Positive response goes a long way in ensuring that intent of response is internalized properly.
How often do you choose Redirection or Positive response in your coaching ?