New Types of Feedback
May 13th, 2014
Today’s post is written by Ben Magee, the Presidential Fellow in the Office of Personal and Career Development. He shares some insights gained in his first job after graduating from college.
As a Wake Forest Presidential Fellow, I’ve learned many lessons in my first year working as a full time administrator for the university. One of the starkest changes coming from undergrad is the loss of immediate feedback. I didn’t realize that the immediate feedback of grades on tests and papers was something that I actually desired – or maybe I just got used to it. Some of my co-workers say that my generation generally wants to know that we are succeeding, and we want to know right now. However, the world of work is much more nuanced and while I have received feedback, it is must less frequent and comes in various shades of grey when compared to test grades and my academic GPA.
At a recent luncheon, a senior administrator explained to me that most of the recent graduates she interacts with make a similar incorrect assumption. They assume that the professional world will be strictly competency or merit-based – meaning our ability to perform our job function will determine how our coworkers evaluate us. However in many professional domains, it is only half the picture. You may be hired for your competency, but you keep that job and move up the corporate ladder based on both your competency and your chemistry. In other words, your ability to work well with and be liked by others can also dictate much of your success. This line of thinking follows “the plane test”. The premise of the plane test is, “If your co-worker and you were on business travel but were delayed at the airport for the day, would you enjoy each other’s company?”
If you want the answer to be yes, then learning how to make working alongside your coworkers enjoyable is a process of continual feedback- but in a different way. It is not grades, but rather observing and gathering informal feedback about the work habits and styles that your co-workers most appreciate. During exams, you’re not supposed to ask for the answers from the teacher. In the workplace, asking your coworkers for feedback after a meeting or project makes them feel honored that you value their input. My experience is that co-workers don’t expect perfection, but they value people who are competent and who seek personal improvement and progress. The real key in obtaining feedback is to display a sincere and authentic attitude in seeking improvement and then rapidly implementing the feedback. After all, who doesn’t like that kind of person?