I hate giving and receiving professional feedback. It’s the worst.
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That’s why I agreed to write a six-part series on the Saba Halogen blog about giving and receiving feedback. If I’m ever going to get better, I need to learn how to communicate with other people effectively.
My series forced me to research “best practices,” and I tried to find ways to apply those recommendations into our everyday lives as workers and leaders. We have a webinar coming up at the end of June, too. If you’ve ever struggled to give someone feedback, or if you don’t know what to do with feedback that’s wrong, you might want to sign up.
The whole time I wrote those posts, I thought back to a time when I gave feedback to a blogger in the human resources industry. She was young, energetic, and wanted me to be her mentor. Her writing skills were okay, and I thought it would be fun to have a protege and build a legacy.
Unfortunately, this young woman suffered from acute insecurity and felt inferior to others. Girls are like that, and so part of my job was to build her up while challenging her to find a voice and point-of-view. She started reading great bloggers like Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn, and I noticed that some of her writing mirrored their posts. Also, she mimicked my tweets and my writing style.
So I gave this woman some feedback. We all learn how to do things in this world by mirroring and mimicking. At some point, you either have the confidence to produce a new idea or you don’t. It’s fine to jump on the bandwagon and pay homage to writers whom you respect; however, it’s totally uncool to watch people and try to associate yourself with good work by literally parroting what other people say.
Because I’m an HR lady who was schooled on documentation, I had specific examples of where I felt this writer was mimicking and mirroring writers. I also had examples of how I thought she could expound on ideas and make them her own. In retrospect, I should have realized that nobody wants feedback. Not millennials. Not baby boomers. And I should know this because Tim Sackett literally wrote a blog post saying that nobody wants feedback.
(If only I had parrotted him more, I would have learned something.)
But sometimes you have to give feedback to change someone’s life. I felt that it was my job as a mentor to communicate a particular message with examples of how to improve. And you know how the story ends, right? No good deed goes unpunished, and this blogger now hates me. Furthermore, she mimics and mirrors me so much that she gave me feedback and examples of how I copy people like Ryan Estis, Robin Schooling, and Jennifer McClure.
Naturally, I heard that feedback and got defensive. I grew up in this industry with a core group of people. We have shared interests. We’re nearly the same age. And we have a passion for disrupting a conservative industry. Right around 2009, we all took risks in our careers and tried to break through the noise of SHRM and do something daring. My friends and I are part of a community, which means we sometimes see the same patterns and have similar messages.
But that feedback got into my head. Instead of mindfully listening and being thoughtful about my response, I pretty much told her to get a life. I’m not saying that I don’t stand by that action because I do. I can’t be in a professional relationship where feedback is responded to with mirrored feedback. It’s meta, and, ultimately, unhealthy. And it doesn’t respect my role as a mentor.
However, since that experience, I’ve been itching to explore the world of how to give and receive feedback. I’ve learned that trust and respect are core components of all relationships. If you don’t have confidence and esteem of someone, most of your efforts — including giving and receiving professional feedback — are a waste of time.
So, please have a look at my Halogen Saba series, and please tune in for my upcoming webinar. I’ve done the deep dive on giving and receiving professional feedback, and I’m excited to share what I have learned.