How to Navigate Feedback in the Gen Z Workplace
One of the common challenges we see in all our courses is workplace feedback. Navigating feedback could be one of the most critical challenges you may face as a manager, leader, or even an ordinary employee.
While feedback may seem inconsequential, managers and leaders should know how to give feedback.
Proper feedback is vitally important to the health of the organisation and the continuation of every employee’s engagement in the workplace.
Even more importantly, not every generation will respond the same to the feedback you provide. One of the common questions that we get asked is how Generation Z or other generations will react to feedback we deliver in the workplace.
Our answer: when delivered appropriately, everybody should receive feedback fairly. However, Generation Z has some unique preferences regarding feedback, which we will explore right after we touch upon the difference between proper feedback and incorrect feedback methods.
What Classifies as Good Feedback?
Good feedback is not hard to come by, but it can be difficult to deliver if you don’t have the right format. Generally, good feedback is sincere, communicates a message, and matches what the person most commonly responds to. For example, if you know that the employee you're talking to responds better to written communication, a sincere letter with feedback and actionable steps is the best pathway to delivering impact and positively influencing their development.
Furthermore, good feedback must be frequent and personalised, not just simply when awards are given. While it can be increasingly convenient to deliver feedback whenever an award or recognition is presented, just think about your employees.
If you were in their shoes, would you want to hear about how great you’re doing only once a year, maybe even once every couple of years? If you think about it that way, you’ll deliver feedback as needed, and it will add value.
What is Bad Feedback in the Workplace?
Bad feedback is highly evident when watching people communicate with one another. Many people say there's no wrong way to give feedback, but we beg to differ. We have seen numerous times in our work where people have delivered feedback that was not delivered correctly and with the wrong focus points. We hope you avoid these tell-tale signs of bad feedback in your communications with all the failures we have seen over the years and many organisations.
Bad feedback is delivered infrequently and without sincerity. This is the kind of conversation where you know the other person is simply not listening, and we all know how frustrating that is for the person on the receiving end. Furthermore, bad feedback is also without consideration for the other person involved, and it can be highly discouraging, especially if it sounds generic or if it completely misses crucial points that the person is concerned about and potentially even asked of their manager.
Now that you recognise bad feedback let's talk about a crucial perspective required for even the best feedback to have an actual impact: growth mindsets.
Why Growth Mindsets Matter When Delivering Feedback
Believe it or not, the person who gives the feedback is not always to blame for the lack of improvement in the future. One of the biggest challenges we have seen is due to the difference between people with fixed and growth mindsets. A fixed mindset is pretty obvious: these people often feel that there's no way they can change and that feedback indicates who they are as a person.
On the other hand, a growth mindset is the exact opposite. These people don't align themselves with the belief that the feedback they receive indicates who they are, but they see it as a learning opportunity. With the proper balance of positives and good feedback delivery, people with growth mindsets take action, improve, and do not find themselves stuck in the workplace.
However, as you can imagine, fixed mindsets are constantly stuck, so we should encourage every individual in the workplace to embrace a growth mindset to truly benefit from the information we provide them as managers and leaders.
Generation Z and Feedback: How Do They Differ from Others?
Surprisingly enough, Generation Z demonstrates a few differences regarding feedback compared to other generations. But, when we mention these, you might find yourself similar to Generation Z.
Generation Z prefers having personalised feedback rather than rushed feedback, and they also want to have time to ask questions and hear what all the managers have to say to them. This is not to say that short feedback isn't beneficial to Generation Z, but they generally like to have an in-depth understanding of where they are and where they can progress.
Many of you reading this might think you are just like Generation Z despite the gaps in age and understanding of social media and digital technology. Not every person is going to align with the generational trends that we sometimes see in organisations. However, we have seen in many generations that Generation Z struggles with feedback because they see some feedback as negative, making it difficult for them to empower themselves.
Yet, if we return to our discussion of growth mindsets, you see that we have a crucial opportunity to help them grow but also to ensure that our words matter and that they genuinely benefit from what we offer.
How Will You Improve Your Feedback Delivery?
With all this in mind, how will you change how you deliver feedback in your organisation?
One of the most significant pieces of advice we can offer as longtime coaches and trainers is that adaptability is crucial. Don't be afraid to have difficult conversations, and help people see the benefit of what you offer. If you deliver feedback correctly and encourage people to see beyond the criticism they may see initially, your feedback could move mountains for your organisation and the future leaders that Generation Z is quickly becoming.
This is just the basics in feedback, our book goes deeper and our course goes even further. Feedback is a hige area and one thing you have to consider, how often do I give feedback and how do I deliver this.
We have thousands of hours of giving feedback on feedback, and we know all the traps people fall into. Remember people don’t forget how you make them feel so one bad feedback session or a couple of wrong questions can damage the relationship then the connection and respect can be lost.
Feedback is not just tools and techniques, it is far greater than that. We hope this information has been helpful for you and gave you something to think about for the future. However, we also want to share a fantastic opportunity with you to learn from us in a live course in London on 4th April and you can read more about this here.
Coming up next month, we also have a tremendous book complete with information on management and leadership and how to manage Generation Z specifically.
Claire and Ralph