BLOG IMAGE Some Performance Feedback is Rubbish

Why some Performance Feedback is Rubbish

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern.

Not all performance feedback provided to you in the workplace is a gift. In fact, a great deal of feedback that comes the way of women is unsolicited, gendered rubbish! Most definitely not a gift.

However, the advice that Dr Amantha Imber who is the host of one of my favourite podcasts, How I Work, falls into the category of good advice. That’s why when she shared a post on LinkedIn about getting advice recently, I let out a big “YAAAAASSS!”

Why was I so enthusiastic about the post from Amantha? Because I know that much of the feedback delivered by managers to their direct reports is less effective than it could be. This is due in part because it does not use the three-part leadership definition (below) that I use as a framework and in part because the recipient of the advice simply has not gone about it the right way.

Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others

A Note About Mansplaining

Susan Colantuono developed this leadership definition and it has guided me, and literally millions of leaders around the world every day.

Feedback provided to women can be highly gendered (heard of mansplaining?) and women have been socialised from birth to accept whatever feedback comes their way, irrespective of how useful it is (or not!) So feedback is not always a gift, but women discovering how to receive (and give) meaningful feedback is a very useful way to cut through the noise and get what they need to have a career that soars!

On that note, I want to take the opportunity to highlight an upcoming episode of Lead to Soar where Mel Butcher and I discuss giving and receiving feedback. Subscribe to Lead to Soar to be notified when the episode is released.

Building on Brilliance

So back to the post by Amantha. I’ve taken the enormous liberty of adding my thoughts to her brilliant article to build upon her brilliance.

  • Feedback has little impact on our performance. Actually, 33% of the time, it negatively impacts it. That’s because feedback is backwards-looking. When someone gives you feedback, they’re reflecting on your past behaviour instead of focusing on the future. This relates to behavioural feedback however I would argue that if the feedback is related or linked to performance outcomes (the strategic and financial goals you are required to deliver for your employer) then you should take notice. Bu ask specifically what metric you need to move, by when and how you and your manager will develop a plan to do just that.  (note here that I have said manager…keep reading!)
  • Getting advice helps you think about what you can do better next time is a better option than anchoring you to past mistakes. Engage the greatness in the (right) others to achieve the outcomes the business deems as important. What is it that you need to do better to ‘be for the business’ and demonstrate that you understand the strategic and financial goals that your role is responsible for achieving. 

How to Ask for the Right Advice, from the Right People

If you’re wondering how you should go about asking for advice, here are some quick tips:

  • Be specific in the type of advice you’re asking for. Do you want methods for improving your communication skills? Or just a sounding board for your ideas? Make that clear. Use the greatness in you. What is YOUR Missing 33%? Identify that then plan how to close that gap and who is best placed to help you with that. 
  • Be direct. Don’t ask: “How did you think it went today?” Instead, ask: “What could I do better next time?” Engaging the greatness in (the right) others means being able to ask directly for their feedback but using the greatness in you means that you are doing the heavy lifting by making it easy for your advisor to give you actionable insights and advice. The other aspect is by doing this well, you are building important strategic relationships.
  • Ask the right person.(see above!)  And remember, the colleague you’re closest with may not always have the best advice for your situation.The ‘Right Others’ are those that will enable your career goal to come to life. Think carefully here … anchor this request in the specific advice you need to meet the goal or close the gap that you have already identified.  

Getting Your Ass Kicked

And finally, when it comes to the unsolicited advice that women are so often expected to grin and endure, here is advice from Brené Brown that I quote often in my work:

If you are not in the arena with me getting your ass kicked then I am not interested in your feedback.

You may wish to develop your own more engaging and less combative version to use in your workplace. But make no mistake, you must work out which feedback is a gift, and which is falls into the category of unsolicited, gendered rubbish so that you too can have a career that soars!

About Michelle Redfern

BLOG IMAGE Michelle RedfernMichelle is the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on equality, inclusion and gender diversity. She is also the co-founder of social enterprise CDW (Culturally Diverse Women and Workforces) and co-founder and co-host of A Career that Soars! Michelle is determined to contribute to achieving global gender equality in her life time, especially through her research and advocacy in the sporting industry.

Michelle is a Non-executive director for Williamstown Football Club, an Ambassador for Honour a Woman, Respect Victoria and Flexible Working Day. She has held executive leadership roles ASX & FTSE listed companies NAB, Telstra and Serco during her 30-year career.

Michelle was named City of Melbourne B3000 Female Entrepreneur of the Year (2019), is a proud recipient of the AFR 100 Women of Influence Award (2018).


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Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.