Liberating Workplace Feedback

Think about the last time you got better at something. The odds are that you got better because someone gave you feedback about how you could improve. Feedback is the single most powerful way to grow as a person and professional. But feedback in work environments is often difficult and stressful. 

Why is something that is so good for us also so stressful?

The common answer to this question is that people don't like hearing about their weaknesses and mistakes. But in reality, there are very few people who don't genuinely want to know how they can improve. Take a walk through any bookstore, and you will find dozens of books all aimed at filling the deep felt desire that most people have to improve as a leader, a professional, or as a person.

The reason that feedback is so difficult in work environments is that feedback at work has two purposes. The first is to help you improve, the second is to discipline you. And no one likes being disciplined.

The French social philosopher Michel Foucault argued that a fundamental dynamic of modernity has been the movement from the exercise of power through external coercive control mechanisms (e.g., men with sticks) to the exercise of power through internal control.  Modern institutions derive their power by internalizing in each of us the compulsion to discipline ourselves to conform to the expectations of these institutions. Foucault used the metaphor of the Panopticon to illustrate his theory. The Panopticon is an architectural design for a prison where a guard stands in a circular inspection tower at the center of the prison from which they can view all prisoners. Although it is impossible for the guard to watch all prisoners at once, prisoners don’t know when they are or are not being watched, and so must act as though they are. Feeling that they are always being watched, leads prisoners to internalize their own discipline and behave in line with the prison’s expectations.

Feedback is the Panopticon of modern work.

And so feedback at work is stressful because it is simultaneously an invaluable tool for you to professionally improve, and a mechanism through which you are controlled, evaluated, disciplined.

But what if it were possible to separate the individual growth aspect of professional feedback from the disciplinary aspect? What if feedback could be about engaging people you work with and trust in transparently and collectively helping you get better, but with control of the process in the hands of the person receiving feedback? And what if this feedback process could be automated in a way to make it easy not only to receive feedback, but to then rapidly engage the people you trust to help you plan specific actions you can take to improve professionally based on their feedback and even track your progress implementing those improvements?

The result would be a genuine and liberating process of professional development, unfettered from the anxiety and stress that is built into most workplace feedback. The result would be a process of collective support in which trusted co-workers and team members don’t just tell you what you are doing right and wrong, but efficiently help you to master your own professional development.

We created Kannetic's Leadership Developer solution to make such a liberating feedback process available and easy to conduct by anyone who wants to develop their leadership capabilities.

The Leadership Developer solution is available for free to anyone who wants to become a better leader.

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