While no one wants to work in a setting that discourages constructive criticism, the practice of “frontstabbing” or “radical candor” is becoming more common, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. This is when employees or managers deliver brutal criticism in a direct way. Companies that have had issues with communication have chosen this approach in an effort to encourage authentic conversations. There are some benefits to this system, but it can also lead to conflict.
Providing candid, valuable feedback that won’t damage relationships is tricky business. But it’s also essential: one study by Forbes found that satisfied employees are much more likely to report that their managers provide honest feedback. Here are some tips for how to maximize how your business handles criticism:
While no one likes backstabbing, frontstabbing might not be any better. One company that tried this approach said that its workplace culture of radical honesty became an excuse for being insensitive. No matter what people said, they could quickly cover it up by claiming that they were “just being honest,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kim Scott, an executive coach at Google, says that it’s better to adopt a position of “giving honest feedback while showing genuine concern.” Establish that you’re on your employees’ side and that you expect them to succeed. That way feedback is delivered in a gentler context.
Accentuate the Positive
According to a survey by Harvard Business Review, employees value criticism more from managers who give more positive than negative feedback. This is because as humans we’re naturally inclined to remember the negative more than the positive. Be as supportive of your employees as you can. After all, you hired them for a reason. Make them believe that they can do the job and then give specific examples where they can improve.
Offer Feedback Often
Feedback phobia is a widespread phenomenon. Many employees are used to an annual sit-down with their boss during which their performance is criticized. This formal process makes people weary of receiving feedback.
Instead, provide feedback regularly. Be sure to offer more praise than criticism. General Electric successfully did away with its old system and started a performance management system that supports positive behaviors and corrects negative ones. Its new program has been widely lauded for its success, according to Fast Company.
Giving and Receiving
Feedback shouldn’t be a one-way process. Truly honest feedback processes involve employees offering suggestions to management as well. After all, your team sees how management decisions affect day-to-day business. Leaders who regularly ask their employees for feedback are more likely to be rated highly by employees, according to Forbes.
While the intent behind radical candor is laudable, in practice it can lead to major problems. Successful businesses create an environment in which employees provide and receive honest feedback in a way that doesn’t lead to excessive conflict.