my employee asked me to stop giving him feedback

A reader asks:

I’m a relatively new manager and trying to do my best to tailor my style for each of my team members. This week I asked my team members what they’d like to me to do differently in our one-on-ones. I got some great feedback from most of my folks, but one has me slightly stumped.

One of the standard things we talk about are work expectations because our role has specific levels we expect people to hit at different stages of their development. These are typically less than five minutes of a half hour meeting, just a moment for us to pause and consider big picture thoughts.

The problem is – my team member’s feedback was that he doesn’t want to discuss expectations or feedback. I tried to probe to find out why and explained that we do this so he’ll know how he’s doing, how raises are decided and how/why other conversations happen, but he says he just doesn’t like talking about it. I asked if there’s another method he’d prefer – written vs talking, etc. – but he just doesn’t like any of it. I said I’d brainstorm and asked him to come up with ways to get the info as well. Obviously I’ll be giving feedback whether he likes it and I’m open to other conversations, but I don’t want to entirely disregard the request.

Have you ever heard something like this? Do you have any other ideas of how I can make sure he understands his expectations and work progress without overtly communicating about it?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 98 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Ella

    Obviously you can’t stop giving feedback all together, as that’s a pretty fundamental part of a healthy workplace, but I wonder if an employee said they were interested in staying in their current role long-term and had no desire to advance or change roles in the future, if it would be realistic to stop giving feedback related to advancement and promotions. It seems like there are some jobs out there where someone who is happy to keep doing the same work and do it well without advancement would be just fine (or even a net positive) but would it still be important to at least keep them in the loop about what advancement or a pay-raise would require?

    Reply
    1. Rusty Shackelford

      I don’t see how. I’m not interested in advancing from my current position, since that would require moving into management, but I still need to be given feedback on how I’m doing *this* job.

      Reply
      1. Close Bracket

        Ella isn’t talking about feedback related to the current position. They are suggesting skipping feedback related to promotions and advancements.

        Reply
          1. fhqwhgads

            The employee wanted to skip all of it, so I took Ella as asking “well could you potentially still skip some?” (ie the feedback changes from “this is what we expect of you, and this is how you can excel” it turns into just “this is what we expect of you”, which yeah sure I guess you could.)

            Reply
            1. Ella

              Right, that’s exactly what I meant. Sometimes you do run into people who are happy to keep working their same job and have no desire for advancement. I was contemplating if you’d be doing those types of employees a service or a disservice by giving them feedback on their work but skipping any feedback about advancement or raise opportunities.

              Reply
              1. TPS Cover Sheet

                Yeah, I am a specialist and the only career move I could do would be to get ”demoted to middle management”. I don’t want to become a ”Peter Principle” boss losing touch of the technology. So anything even having a whiff of a long term management role I find an excuse to not take on. I sometimes need to explain this as recruiters look at my CV and wonder why my roles stay the same. It is a conscientious choice.

                Reply
    2. Not Me

      The only way I could see that working, in the context of the LW, is to only discuss performance if there was an issue or at meetings specifically for feedback (annual review, etc). As in, not take the 5 minutes at every 1:1 meeting to say “things are still going well, keep it up!”.

      Reply
      1. Catalin

        I’d very much like to know how frequently these feedback sessions are. Weekly is way to often, I’d personally prefer quarterly/biannual sessions to take a look at big picture performance feedback (unless there’s an issue).

        Reply
        1. Josie

          That’s what I wanted to know, too. Where I work we are SMOTHERED with meetings – two per WEEK. We all HATE IT!

          Reply
        2. Eleanora (UK)

          It depends on what you consider feedback – general course correcting/prioritising/instructions on how to handle new or slightly different to usual tasks, and feedback on tasks that have been completed all counts as feedback and is less strategic, more operational. I’d imagine this needs to happen regularly for the work to meet requirements. In terms of larger more strategic feedback, I’d agree that that’s a twice a year sort of thing.

          But equally, I’ve always been taught that nothing in your formal reviews should be a surprise, if it is to be a fair process – the only way you’ll know things are going to crop up in your formal performance review is if they’ve come up several times during normal catch ups, and you’ve had a chance to address them/turn them around.

          Reply
    3. Emily K

      I don’t think promotions need to be discussed if the employee expresses disinterest, other than perhaps checking in once or twice a year to see if that’s changed.

      Raises are maybe worth still discussing, but only if raises are given on an objective/standardized enough basis that you could reasonably say in June, “At your current performance level you would qualify for a raise of $X-Y. To qualify for a raise of $Y-Z, you would need to hit this specific performance target.” If raises are given out more subjectively then I think it goes without saying that performance is generally correlated with your raise, so discussing performance would be sufficient to cover that base without spelling out something as vague and non-specific as, “You’re doing OK, but not great, so you’ll probably get a small raise next year but nothing really substantial unless you start wowing us more.” You can just tell them they’re doing OK but not great and they probably can be trusted to understand what that means for their raise.

      Reply
    1. NotAnotherManager!

      Oh, I’m glad to see the update was so positive! It just sounds so odd to want no feedback whatsoever that I felt like there had to be someone else to this situation.

      Reply
    2. AdAgencyChick

      THANK YOU! I was just about to ask whether this one had been updated because the initial conversation was so outrageous!

      Reply
    3. Close Bracket

      the introspective nature made him anxious.

      This is a perfect example of how just because you are feeling uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean the situation/other person is doing anything wrong. Sometimes, you just have to learn to manage your anxiety. Too bad the employee wasn’t the one who wrote in.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s a nice update, but I gotta say I’m not sure if that was going to be enough given what a poor employee he was in other ways.

        Reply
    4. Akcipitrokulo

      Ah, thqt makes more sense… it sounds like his friends’ experiences had made him equare feedback= preparation to fire. Which still isn’t logocal to ask for nonfeedbaxk as it wouldn’t prevent being let go, but can see where he was coming from.

      Reply
      1. Glitsy Gus

        I totally get it too. I was also thinking that if it were something like, “honestly, going over all call rate and Time-per-call and resolution stats every single week makes me kind of anxious and overwhelmed. Could we just go over them once a month instead? That is easier for me to see the bigger patterns and it prevents me from obsessing about the numbers so I can focus n doing the actual work well.” or something along those lines. I’ve been in that boat, and feeling nit-picked can cause a lot of anxiety. Though, obviously, it’s far better to ask for different feedback than no feedback at all.

        Reply
      2. tangerineRose

        Interesting. I tend to think of feedback as being useful info to have when you want to keep your job.

        Reply
  2. Yikes

    In any job I’ve ever worked at, the answer to this would be “Unacceptable. Feedback is not for your benefit; it is for the team and organizations benefit. You need to receive feedback in order to prevent miscommunications and errors from happening in the future, for the sake of your team and the company. Your first piece of feedback is to learn to take criticism or praise better as part of your personal development.”

    Reply
    1. Adereterial

      And any manager who delivered that message in that way can expect to lose staff – that’s incredibly patronising, abrasive and aggressive.

      It’s also wrong – feedback is just as much for the employees benefit as it is the employers. Framing it as solely for the benefit of the employer and team is really rather odd, and would be totally demoralising to some.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!

        I agree with this. We frame feedback (and I have a lot of entry-levels, so we talk about feedback – giving, receiving, it’s purpose – as part of onboarding) as a way to help them succeed and learn new skills. Does the organization benefit from that? Of course! But it’s not just for us, and I’d lose good people if we didn’t use feedback as part of a professional development strategy for the individual employee.

        Reply
      2. Eukomos

        +1 Starting out a response with “unacceptable” is a slap in the face. That response would permanently damage your rapport with that employee. They’d probably shut up and let you say your feedback in the future, but they’d take far less of it on board. If you want someone to stop talking then sure, treat them like that, but if you want someone to actually take feedback you need to treat them with a modicum of respect.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I mean, it’s harsh, but if you’ve got an employee that thinks it’s totally okay to tell their boss not to give them any feedback because they don’t like it, maybe it’s time for a reality check. That is genuinely an unacceptable response. I don’t think it’s out of line to tell the employee so.

          Reply
        2. Djuna

          Sometimes, though, “unacceptable” is the right word. It signals that something is beyond the pale, and it should make someone sit up and listen, especially if it comes from a boss who is normally kind and accommodating as it seems OP has been.

          From the original post, this was the employee’s first job and it seemed like he’d been gentled around a little too much. I think “unacceptable” is fine, as long as it’s used extremely sparingly in situations where someone says something as jaw-droppingly ill-advised as the employee in the OP did.

          Reply
          1. Yikes

            Agreed, I’ve been told that something was “unacceptable” for much less than this. This is truly unacceptable and the employee should be told as such.

            Reply
      3. Yikes

        If you follow the link, Alison’s advise is summarized as: “It’s not just for his personal benefit; it’s primarily for yours and the organization’s, and that’s how you need to frame it.”
        I agree. An employee that doesn’t care to receive feedback probably doesn’t care to improve, so the feedback will probably fall on deaf ears anyway; in this case, you need to primarily give feedback for the sake of the organization so that if the feedback is ignored the employee can be put on a performance improvement plan and if no improvement, terminated.

        Reply
    2. Works in IT

      On one hand, I get that not wanting feedback isn’t right.

      On the other hand, the majority of feedback I get is of the positive, you are a superstar nature. Which would be great…. except this is not going to impact my compensation in any way shape or form, as I am a contractor and contractors don’t get cost of living raises, let alone bonuses or other nice we love you and don’t want you to go elsewhere perks. I really wish I could just… stop getting the positive feedback, as without any ability to spin this into justification for a higher title or better benefits, it feels like meaningless platitudes, and I’d much rather spend my time at work either working or being told what I can do to improve. Not receiving empty praise. Empty praise won’t help me start job hunting when I’ve been here long enough that I won’t be seen as a job hopper when I try to move elsewhere in search of the elusive paid time off.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!

        One of the things I’ve had to discuss with evaluators is that, as much as it’s a good thing to let their high-performing folks know how much they are appreciated, those same people are typically looking for continued professional growth and crave feedback other than, “Awesome job, Jane! Keep up the good work next year!” – because if you’re not able to give them a path to continue growing, they will (and should) look elsewhere for those opportunities.

        Reply
      2. Minocho

        Maybe in your case, request feedback that you can turn into concrete numbers for resume enhancement and self promotion. That’s still useful to a contractor.

        Reply
      3. Observer

        But that’s really an edge case, and TOTALLY different than what the OP is describing.

        If you said to your boss “I don’t want any feedback. Nope, it doesn’t matter how much or how you give it. Nothing.” You’d probably find yourself facing the “feedback” of not having your contract not extended. On the other hand, telling your supervisor that “I like the praise, but it feels like a LOT of time. Let’s just focus on what needs to change, what I can improve and objectives for the next x (week, month, whatever)” you’d probably get a good response. At minimum, you wouldn’t get the kind of response that you are seeing here.

        PS Is there no way for you to use this information to improve compensation? Maybe when it comes to your next contract renewal? Or even in terms of your next contract?

        Reply
    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Yuck, this is pretty militant and unnecessarily harsh towards an employee. It’s up there with “HR is here to protect the business and isn’t here to help you navigate your workplace benefits or rights.” It leads to a large gap and other issues along the way, despite it not being “wrong”, it’s not the right way to speak to people who you want to manage well.

      The response is more like “Feedback is for both sides, it’s so you know what our expectations of you are and to keep communication channels open.” So yeah, you can’t “opt out” of feedback because it’s not all about you but you also don’t get smacked down with such a heavy hand of “well you don’t matter anyways, this about our end product, stay in your lane.”

      Reply
  3. Interplanet Janet

    HAHAHAHAHA ….

    On a related note, I would also like the office to be closer to my home, and could you do something about global warming? kthxbye

    Reply
    1. Peridot

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of the expectation that I’m going to show up every day at the same time. In the mornings. That’s just not going to work for me.

      Reply
    2. Half-Caf Latte

      I somehow conflated your comment and username in my skimming, and my brain saw “I’d like the office to be closer to my home planet.”

      Reply
  4. Auntie Social

    I think I’d ask him if, at his last employers, “feedback” meant criticism. “Because here, feedback is positive, too, like when you XY’d—that was good sound critical thinking! Are you used to being beaten about the head and shoulders every time the “F” word is used?” If so, that’s some bad conditioning his manager needs to work around.

    Reply
    1. TPS Cover Sheet

      Been there, done that. ”Feedback” = someone complained or you are doing something wrong. If you do your job, that’s what you are supposed to do so you never hear of that. And if you sometimes did get a ”customer comment” that wasn’t a complaint… well, the cat lives on thankyous… And wasn’t one boss or one company either.

      ”Continuous feedback” sounds like micromanagement… having two bosses who are micromanagers with conflicting directions takes the biscuit though.

      Yeah, if I had weekly 1:1’s I’d be crawling the walls, but I’d let it all go in one ear and go out the other and smile as if I was going to drink your koolaid. Thirty years of office politics makes one observant. It is for me every time the boss says ”I want to have a word” my brain locks into ”I am getting sacked” and I start automatically cleaning my desk. But then a cynical bastard like me getting ”positive feedback” my brain goes into full paranoia and I start going through all the possible scenarios ”what are they trying to shit me now with”.

      Old dogs and new tricks…

      Reply
    2. fposte

      I think this was the employee’s first job, in fact.

      I’d also challenge the phrasing of “needs to work around.” There’s no automatic obligation for a manager to work around a problem this big; sometimes they can, but often they can’t, so an employee would be wise to work on that problem themselves. That’s a big reason why it can be bad to stay in a toxic workplace–you can bring behaviors to the next job that will hurt you.

      Reply
      1. Auntie Social

        Yes, but if the manager knows that he can fine tune feedback, make it a more pleasant experience so the employee doesn’t jump like TPS and I used to. Not forever, mind you, but get the employee used to feedback not being a horrible thing.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Sure, sometimes a request for variation is small and easy to handle. But it’s not uncommon for an employee to feel that if a difference would be helpful to them that a manager is obliged to do it, and that’s the kind of expectation I’m trying to temper.

          Reply
        2. OhNo

          It would definitely be a nice thing for the manager to do, as long as all parties are clear that it’s not required, and that it’s not permanent. Otherwise the employee might be trained to expect unrealistic accommodations from their manager, much like they were originally trained to associate “feedback” with nothing but negatives, and that isn’t any better for them to carry into the next job.

          Reply
        3. Observer

          True. But that’s different than “needs to work around” without qualifiers.

          For one, it’s not “needs” but should try because it’s smart and kind. For another, it’s just not always practical.

          Reply
  5. DCompliance

    I have heard of employees asking not to receive feedback before. They can’t handle negative criticism.

    Reply
    1. Works in IT

      Criticism is better to handle than praise. If people point out things I’m doing wrong, that gives me something to focus on to do better. If they point out all the good things I’ve done, I’m forced to suppress the urge to scream “so why am I on a contract that pays half the standard rate for my position?”

      I would much rather be criticized, criticism doesn’t make me want to yell things that are inappropriate in the office.

      Reply
  6. Jadelyn

    I’m just…picturing the unspeakably enormous brass balls it would take to ask your boss to stop giving you feedback. Like…that’s…a huge part of what bosses do? Direct the work? Which means catching where things have gone off-rails and course-correcting, which requires feedback? And praising the bits you did really well so you can build on those?

    I am genuinely stumped at the idea that anyone could think that’s an okay thing to tell their boss. Just…amazing.

    Reply
    1. NotAnotherManager!

      I mean, I’ve JOKED with my boss recently that we can skip my annual appraisal that is coming up, but I both know it’s not an option and have the relationship with her that she knows I’m not seriously rejecting feedback. (Also, I get feedback – good and bad – all the time because she is a good boss and not sandbagging me at said appraisal.)

      Reply
    2. fposte

      I think this may just have been somebody who was too new to the workforce to understand how out of line that request was.

      Reply
        1. fposte

          In this case he’d been doing the same thing with the old boss, and he’d been in the workplace all of 8 months. Which is probably what bought him time when somebody who knew better would have been out on their ear already.

          Reply
  7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

    I’ve had jobs where I had to beg for feedback. I had a job where I got no feedback other than “yeah you’re doing a good job, here’s a slightly above average performance review” and then one day out of nowhere it was “your performance is unacceptable, we are placing you on a six-month probation”. I called a meeting with the HR rep and my boss, to say that I had no warning of the unacceptable performance. The boss insisted that I had, and pointed out a few times when he’d dropped vague hints that he was unhappy. (He was ironically demoted and then let go a couple of years later.)

    It would never cross my mind to ask for no feedback. It’s like asking to remove all traffic lights in my area, because I hate being stuck at a red light.

    Reply
    1. Evan Þ.

      My first job was like this. Fortunately, I didn’t quite get put on probation, but I was still blindsided by an end-of-the-year review.

      It was even worse because it was my first non-internship job, so I had no idea I should be getting more feedback. Fortunately, my boss was reassigned a little while later, and my next boss was much, much better.

      Reply
    2. LJay

      Hopefully the demotion wasn’t so ironic and was a direct consequence of him being unable to do his job as a boss (which includes giving clear feedback) effectively.

      Reply
  8. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    I wonder how much feedback and how often. If someone was giving me weekly or maybe even monthly one-on-one feedback about goals, expectations and development I’d want less of that too. Unless I’m on a PIP for poor performance, tell me once what is expected and then let me do that for a while before giving more feedback. To do more feels really micromanaging and time-consuming. If the boss wants constant updates on my projects, I’d rather just send a weekly status update email or have a shared project tracking system.

    Reply
    1. DAMitsDevon

      Yeah, unless the manager doesn’t have time to give feedback more in the moment (whether it be positive or negative) it does seem kind of a time-consuming. If my boss thinks I should have done a certain task better (or conversely, thought I did a really good job and wants to let me know), I’d rather he just let me know as soon as he has time to or in the moment, rather than waiting to give me all that feedback at once, once a week.

      Reply
    2. OhNo

      The situation you’re describing is kind of what I was picturing – you have weekly check-ins, but the feedback every time is “You really need to work to improve [task that only happens once every 6 months].” Like, okay, yes, I got it, let’s move on and revisit that only once I’ve actually had a chance to correct the issue, rather than harp on it forever when there’s nothing I can do about it for now.

      To be fair to the OP, that’s probably not the case in this specific situation. But if the meetings with feedback are happening frequently (e.g.: monthly or weekly), it’s worth keeping an eye on what feedback you’re giving and when, as well as how repetitive it’s getting.

      Reply
    3. Observer

      It’s always good for a manager to look at how they are dealing with any sort of management task when they get unexpected feedback. So looking at frequency and content are a good idea for the OP. But as an employee, you need to ask for something reasonable, not wide (and unrealistic) changes in policy.

      Can we have fewer feedback sessions; can we not repeat feedback on a situation that has not recurred; can we focus more on actionable feedback are all examples of reasonable requests. (Even if the answer is no, as may be possible with #1.) Can we not have ANY feedback? goes waaay too far.

      Reply
  9. AlexandrinaVictoria

    I had a direct report who, during our bi-monthly one on ones, stated that I was creating a “hostile work environment” by providing feedback and coaching. (She was a call center agent.) She went to my supervisor, who told her she was expected to go to her one on ones and participate. She’d show up, but sit silently with her arms folded, while I conducted the meeting as if she was responding. She quit soon after. I never figured out what brought that on, but it was maddening!

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Honestly, sometimes people are difficult and pull this kind of thing for whatever reason is buried in their brain.

      She may not have liked your voice, how you’d make eye contact with her or how you’d just in general “Tell her what to do”. I have had a few people over the years who simply did not take direction, didn’t want to take direction and simply would not respond at times because they didn’t think they had to.

      Thankfully she quit and you didn’t have to keep working around it. That kind of behavior is how you get fired anywhere I’ve been within the first few weeks, if you even last a few weeks.

      I heard a story about someone who just clashed so badly with a manager that they picked up their stuff and quit by going to the owner and saying “This B* is a B and I’m out of here.” [I came to know the manager later and I can’t wrap my mind around what set that off because really, she trained everyone else just fine but this one person couldn’t handle the sound of her voice or something we will never understand.]

      Reply
      1. softcastle mccormick

        Yep, seconding this–sometimes people look for any way to deflect a question about their performance into some sort of abuse or attack on their character. I have a coworker who simply cannot even be checked in with in regard to whether or not she’s doing certain tasks, lest we receive a tongue lashing. Any constructive criticism is an “attack” or an “accusation,” brought on unfairly against poor, hardworking, little-old her. It’s absolutely nauseating and our manager is seconds away from firing her–she was asking her about her workflow, and she got so upset she demanded to see HR! I will never, ever understand it.

        Reply
        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I wish they’d demand to see HR here but that’s because it’s me and I’m great at handling tantrums.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            Right? Please, demand to come see us. Just give me some warning so I can make popcorn first, cause watching our Generalist deal with this sort of thing is highly entertaining.

            Reply
  10. Old Cynic

    When I was in the corporate world (back in the dark ages) I hated performance reviews and would rather not have had them. Maybe I had great managers, but I always felt that I had feedback as I went along – both good and bad – so I always knew how good a job I was doing.

    I remember specifically the negative portions of the reviews. Managers always cited something innocuous because they “had to” include something negative which I felt was silly. But it was documented nonetheless. And I generally couldn’t remember the event.

    Reply
    1. Kelly L.

      I’ve talked about this before, but I had a job that was great at digging up obscure events from months or years past just so they had something negative to say…and they’d also carry these over from year to year. So you’d go in for your review, say, today, and they’d be like “Oh, but that time you were short with a customer back in 2015…” It was like there was no way for obscure old crap to ever fall off your record.

      Reply
      1. TPS Cover Sheet

        In my misguided youth I was ”Gopher on Love Boat”. All the customer comment card negative comments came on in the pouch and latest on the first sea day you pulled all the logs and made your case for the maritime court. I got *one* positive feedback that came and I was read it aloud at the staff meet, for saving someones life or something minuscule like that, off one of my rookie cruises onto the third ship I was on, so it had no effect on my bonuses or statuses… yarr!

        Reply
  11. Middle Manager

    Once, when I took a over an existing team and was doing my initial one-on-ones with everyone, I was generally asking about what they would like from me/how they preferred communication/etc. One woman told me that she would prefer I don’t give her deadlines and I don’t give her feedback. I was pretty new to managing and was really at a loss for how to respond. Wish I’d had this script. I said something along the same lines, but not nearly that eloquent I’m sure.

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      haha…

      What I probably would have said in the moment:
      “That’s not an option”

      What would have come to me over drinks telling my family and friends about this kooky employee:
      “Sure, please make sure that you put those preferences in writing for me. I want to have something to refer to and add to your termination papers when you’re fired for not meeting the deadlines that I didn’t tell you about and when you’re surprised by the fact you are being fired because you don’t want feedback.”

      Reply
  12. Ambulance Chaser

    Sure, we can stop giving you feedback! In fact, I’ll do you one better. You can stop coming in altogether, how about that? Then you’ll never have to worry about hearing the sound of my nagging, bitchy voice ever again. Sound good?

    Reply
    1. OhNo

      I would be so tempted. I’m sure the employee didn’t mean their request the way it sounds, but still. The first thought through my head would almost certainly be something along these lines, or something like: “The only way not to get feedback is to not work here anymore. Is that how you want to proceed?”

      I wouldn’t say that, of course, but it would definitely go through my head at least once.

      Reply
      1. RandomU...

        While it’s not warm and fuzzy, I’m not seeing a whole lot wrong with that line. It’s factual.

        Reply
        1. TPS Cover Sheet

          Well, sometimes a whack with a clue-by-four… when sarcasm and innuendo doesn’t quite get through the thick…

          Reply
  13. MK

    Also, OP, I don’t think you should be trying to “tailor” your management style to each individual employee. I mean, yes, you should take into account about what works best for each of your employees and make changes as required, but that’s a two-way street: they should also be adapting to your management style, they don’t get to dictate how you manage them.

    And yes, tell this person pretty directly that they asked for is not acceptable.

    Reply
  14. MillersSpring

    The first idea I had was whether the OP could create a dashboard, if their type of work would lend itself to that. Could be an online spreadsheet, perhaps with a login where each employee only sees feedback meant for them. Or maybe a digital sign or low-tech poster where the OP could post individual stats. Then before each meeting with he person who gets anxious from discussing feedback, the OP could see if the employee has logged on or just print out their stats. Perhaps with a comment: “I’m happy to discuss these if you have any questions.”

    Even if the work isn’t stat-based, maybe the manager could write a couple of sentences of feedback and just hand it to the employee as often as is prudent—like a report card.

    This would lessen the employee’s anxiety but still achieve the goal of regular feedback.

    Reply
    1. RandomU...

      Overkill in my opinion.

      The manager in this (and apparently other(!)) scenarios needs to carry on with what is the norm in most workplaces. Verbal feedback and 1:1’s are normal, healthy, and expected. An employee would do well to get used to it.

      Reply
    2. Clisby

      But the purpose of 1:1s (at least in my experience) isn’t just for a manager to give feedback to the employee. It’s for the employee to make sure the manager is up to date on what’s going on with her work and to give a heads up if it looks like there are problems ahead.

      I worked for years as a computer programmer, where we had 1:1s roughly monthly. We weren’t just discussing random stuff; every one of us had a set of performance goals to meet for the year, and this was to touch base on how that was (or wasn’t) going, in addition to talking about the inevitable new tasks that had come up. If I saw problems ahead for something I had been assigned, I’d make sure it was documented in this meeting.

      We had to do self-evaluations as the initial step in yearly reviews, and the monthly 1:1 information made that really easy to write.

      Reply
  15. TPS Cover Sheet

    Well, I can give you an example of my ”performance appraisal” which I really don’t want to have any discussions about. What happened is the ginormous company I work for changed the apparaisal system to reflect… the team, the person as a member of the team, and then the performance. Now my problem is that I am not in a team as such, I am a specialist that is sent to another location, another team, another project to either ”do the impossible” or to ”fix things”. I am not a ”member” of that team and my ”special ops” team doesn’t exist except on paper as a HR entity. So we do not do any ”team stuff” in that virtual team, and I just go in as a visiting artist and am not part of that team. As I am high up in the food chain, I am appraised at ”management level”, but I only have minions at the exact time of the project and they are just seconded over under my command for a while so they stay under their boss and I just am the deux ex headoffice. And then I ride out to the sunset. So nothing in the performance or apparaisal reflects anyhing I do, except billable hours. That is the *only* KPI that can be entered into the system. So my ”performance review” is about my billable hours and I am not pimping myself out to do these tricks so it is not actually got to do anything with me, rather someone else screwing things up and me getting to go fix it. So yeah, giving me ”feedback” on my billable hours would probably get the same response.

    Reply
    1. TPS Cover Sheet

      I might add if I *was* in an old-fashioned team, this system would work way better than the previous system as it was a total scatter over things which mostly you had no control about. Now it takes into consideration the team dynamics, maybe a bit of peer pressure to get yor skills shared but also the collaboration to get your skills shared. And if your minions do well, the boss gets a big gold star and a parrot sticker…

      For me and say a few dozen others, not quite so. We’re managers without anyone to manage, and we’re here and there so we can’t even sit together for a coffee except when we rotate back from whatever catastrophe. And our manager is there for the HR and doesn’t have a clue what we do, or why or how. So any ”development plan” is more or less ”prepare for the unexpected”. And then I get a ”performance review” on billed hours…. boss, you want me to grab a few people at random and tell them to break stuff?

      Reply
  16. Torrance

    Hey, Alison, I have a question about ‘be kind’– is there any chance you might expand that to cover letter writers, fellow commenters, and the people included in the letters? Maybe have it just ‘be kind to everyone’?

    There are a couple of comments that seem unkind and uncharitable to the employee in the original letter and, given the context of the update the original letter received, are unwarranted.

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Usually she does extend it to everyone, everywhere but given she cannot spend a lot of time on monitoring the comments, lots of things get missed. She doesn’t have the capacity as a single human to comb every comment and catch all the stuff being said at any given moment.

      Reply
    2. mamma mia

      That is overkill. The “be kind” to letter writers and fellow commenters rule is there because letter writers and fellow commenters will presumably read the comments and no one likes to read mean things about them. On the other hand, people who are mentioned in the letter are very unlikely to be reading the comments due to the fact that they’re probably not aware of any letter written about them. So there is literally zero need for people to be kind or charitable to them.

      Reply
  17. Oxford Comma

    I did once have a colleague who would give you exhaustive and exhausting explanations for every question you asked. Like we’re talking 40 minutes of background when really all you needed was a yes or no.

    But feedback about job performance? That’s essential for all parties concerned.

    Reply
    1. TPS Cover Sheet

      You worked with my dad?

      Lol… I remember very young, I’d asked him something for schoolwork, he’d come an hour or two I’d gone to sleep and come with a book he dug from the attic explaining the Conquistadores and did a lecture on DeSoto when I’d wanted to know was Pizzarro before or after Cortez.

      I learned to use the library and not ask dad…

      Reply
    2. Jamie

      I worked with a very nice man once who was also the king of exhausting explanations. Someone I worked with gently warned me that if you ask Bob what time it is he’ll tell you how to build a clock.

      Reply
  18. Tiara Wearing Princess

    Maybe you should ask him
    ‘So if I’m not happy with your performance, I shouldn’t give you the opportunity to correct or improve it? I should just go straight to firing you?’

    I never cease to be amazed at the inappropriate things people will say to their bosses.

    Reply
  19. WS

    Is it possible that there’s a specific way of delivering feedback at your company that the employee is desperate to avoid? Obviously “no feedback” is a silly request, but I remember one place where they would bring in everyone who was in the same job (so about 5-8 people at a time) and give everyone personal feedback in front of others so that we could “all learn from it”. It was embarrassing and awful. To take a recent letter as an example, if the employee is an involuntary crier, they might prefer to get feedback over email so they can respond to it with less emotional distress. It might be worth finding out what the employee actually means.

    Reply
    1. Pomona Sprout

      It sounds like the OP tried this and was shut down at every turn:

      “I tried to probe to find out why and explained that we do this so he’ll know how he’s doing, how raises are decided and how/why other conversations happen, but he says he just doesn’t like talking about it. I asked if there’s another method he’d prefer – written vs talking, etc. – but he just doesn’t like any of it. I said I’d brainstorm and asked him to come up with ways to get the info as well.”

      Also, the OP made it pretty clear that this feedback was taking place during one-on-ones, so your admittedly nightmarish example doesn’t apply here.

      Reply
  20. Anonymous Celebrity

    “My employee asked me to stop giving him feedback.”

    I would suggest to that employee that he if he continues to insist on this, he should stop expecting our company to provide him with a paycheck.

    Reply
    1. Boston Para

      That is exactly what I was thinking! “No feedback? Okay. I’ll just fire you when it’s time.”

      Reply
  21. CM

    I feel like this is a situation where you’d really have to dig into the issue and find out what it is the person doesn’t like about the way you’re giving feedback. Most people want to know information about how others perceive their work, but “feedback” is a wide umbrella of different types of conversations people can have for different purposes.

    Off the top of my head, I can imagine situations where I would get really annoyed by feedback, even if I thought the feedback was correct — like if somebody constantly pinged me with their assessment of every single thing I did all day long, or if they were focusing on things that didn’t matter within the context of our professional relationship (yes, they way I carry my umbrella IS weird. You ARE correct. It has nothing to do with our work together).

    Not everyone is articulate enough to come right out and say, “I would value the chance to hear your thoughts about my outputs, but the frequency with which you’re sharing them is causing me anxiety.” Sometimes they just say, “Stop doing that.” And, in that situation, you have to ask more questions to understand what they actually want.

    Reply
  22. PD Contrarian

    Going to go against the grain here. Maybe that person read “The Feedback Fallacy” in the Harvard Business Review three months ago. https://hbr.org/2019/03/the-feedback-fallacy
    Highly recommend it for everyone to read. I’m not sure it 100% relates to OP but the premise of the article is that negative feedback makes you focus on your weaknesses, but you’re more likely to excel and grow in the places you’re already good at, and focusing on your weaknesses takes mental energy away from growing. Whenever *possible* avoid _needless_ negative feedback.
    Good job probing, OP, and asking the employee to come up with some alternatives. I’m interested in hearing what the employee’s expectations are for their role, and how they expect to stay in the loop. Also what it is about feedback they don’t like. Is it the negative criticism? Is it the time spent / “wasted”? Different pushback require different tactics.
    Not disagreeing with Alison’s advice, which is what it may come down to. Just a larger picture to consider.

    Reply

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