Blindsided by Feedback

Getting feedback is key to growth, that said, it can be hard to know what to do if some of that feedback comes out of the blue.  This situation is thoughtfully addressed on Jean Latting's blog: Leading Consciously.

The scenario was written by Carole Marmell. Our own Jennifer Joyce, cofounder of LeadershipSmarts responds. This is the first of a two-part segment.  We've given you a teaser here but to get the rest click here to read the original post on Jean's blog: Leading Consciously.


Molly is a 30-year-old bank employee. The bank has a very structured environment, with formal performance appraisals after every project as well as every year. The appraisals go both ways, for supervisors as well as line staff. All appraisals are done by committees consisting of supervisors and line staff. In addition, the supervisors have procedures for providing coaching and feedback to all line staff to help them advance step by step.

In practice, Molly feels she does not receive appropriate coaching and feedback from her immediate supervisor and project manager. She feels that they assume she knows more than she really does, simply because she is so good at figuring things out for herself.

Molly is fairly confident of her approaching yearly appraisal. When her supervisor decides to provide an advance heads-up, Molly believes she will receive supportive feedback for her hard work. Instead it is barely mentioned. She feels her supervisor is telling her she is not conforming to expectations that she didn’t know existed.

“The perception around here,” says the supervisor, “is that you are a bit arrogant and feel you are smarter than everyone else. Your appraisals of others are more negative than we expect, and we worry this is an indication that you are not able to work well with others.”

Molly is not upset with her supervisor; she is actually relieved to hear this feedback before going in front of the whole committee. For that matter, she feels that this supervisor, who is new, is much better at communicating than the previous one. However, she now worries whether her work is considered substandard, rather than high-quality as she assumed. She has totally lost confidence in her own judgment.

What can Molly do now?

  1. How can Molly explain she was unaware of the appraisal criteria without appearing defensive or critical?
  2. How does Molly—or any employee with high standards—not come across as superior when assuming others share her standards?
  3. How can Molly learn to hear constructive feedback and see its potential for growth?
  4. What organizational support should be provided to Molly and her supervisor by bank administration to improve the effectiveness of their feedback system?

Don't you want to know the answers from Jen?  If so, click here to get to Jean Latting's Blog Leading Consciously.

Tip: Using a great 360 tool like the Leadership Circle Profile that we use in our Year in the LIfe: A Virtual Learning Lab for Managers and our executive coaching can help you discover your blind spots and create practical strategies to figure out what to do about them.   

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