Is No News Good News?

Is No News Good News?

A consistent complaint I hear from almost every employee I work with is ‘I don’t get enough feed-back…How do I know if I’m doing a good job?…I just want to know if I’m meeting expectations… ‘

But no news is good news, right? Surely if our performance wasn’t up to standard, or we were behaving inappropriately, someone would tell us??? Unfortunately, No! In the hazardous landscape of performance feedback, no news can all too often signal very bad news.

There’s many reasons why we don’t give feedback when it’s needed. Here’s some you might recognise:

  • You expect (hope) the performance or behaviour will just improve over time
  • You don’t trust your own judgement – you may think you’re being over-sensitive in your reaction, or too harsh in your judgement
  • You give them the benefit of the doubt, believing the incident was a one-off
  • You’re fearful of the other person’s reaction – will they be angry, embarrassed or upset?
  • You just want to preserve the relationship
  • It’s not your job to give feedback – you’re the CEO, or just a supervisor/colleague – someone else should tell them
  • They should know they need to improve!

So, in the face of all these compelling arguments, it’s possible that an under-performing or disruptive employee can carry on for a very long time, blissfully ignorant of any underlying concerns, until there’s a crisis or it’s too late.

As an employee, it’s in your interests, and in the interests of your organisation, to avert this scenario. Here are some suggestions:

  • Demonstrate a genuine interest in and openness to feedback right from the outset
  • Take responsibility for setting up meetings with your manager to define and review changing expectations – your job description outlines broad functions, but may not capture current context or priorities, so review these with your manager when you start and at regular intervals
  • Document the scope of your work, agreed priorities and what will be looked at to gauge your progress and performance – you don’t need a formal performance management system or template in place to do this – have the conversation and write down what you agree so everyone is clear
  • Proactively seek feedback – ask for examples of your strengths (what you do well) and areas for development (what you could do differently, more of or less of)
  • Ask if general feedback could be more specific – let them know if will be more helpful to you if they can provide a specific example of when they noticed a strength or an area for development
  • Seek feedback from a range of sources – peers, direct reports, clients and stakeholders can all provide a valuable perspective – after all, your manager only sees a small part of the whole you, and should not be expected to be the sole judge of your performance
  • If you’re working on changing a specific behaviour see if you can enlist a trusted friend, colleague or manager to help you to become aware of when you’re doing or not doing the desired behaviour – feedback in the moment will be most helpful
  • Listen and try to understand the feedback, even if it’s negative – see if there’s something you can take from it before challenging, remembering we all see the world differently
  • Acknowledge the value of all respectful feedback that’s given with positive intent, even if you don’t agree with it – this builds trust and opens the door for future conversations.

Whilst it can be challenging to give corrective feedback, it also takes courage, trust and a commitment to personal growth to proactively seek and act on feedback. You may feel vulnerable and exposed, but within a trusting and respectful culture, it can also be incredibly empowering and a rich opportunity for development. You might even learn something you wish someone had told you years ago.

Got a Question?
Need a Coach?
Looking for staff training?
Not sure what to do?
See more on our website or
Email to arrange a confidential, no obligation discussion