Feedback in the tech industry — Part one: Fear of Feedback

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

We all feel uncomfortable when getting judged and as a result, we do not want to put our selves into situations that others comment on our behavior or thoughts. We rarely put ourselves in any situation to get judged and get feedback. But nowadays, 360-degree annual reviews are getting common in tech companies, and if you are working in one of those companies that have feedback oriented culture or just a once a year 360-degree reviews, you need to get comfortable with hearing others judging you.

The unease and fear of hearing feedbacks make us put the annual reviews in the closet all year and get to it couple of days before the deadline. Put together something as fast as possible and submit. Later on, when reading everyone’s feedbacks , we start to feel nauseous, frustrated, demotivated and then we think, let’s forget about it, who cares?! This is so unfortunate because we really need to pay attention to the feedback we receive for our career growth, even if it hurts.

The dark corner of feedback

It is in human nature to be scared of things it does not know. We all fear situations we rarely put ourselves into. This is the same as feedback. We try to avoid it, and we are feared because we rarely ask for candor feedback from people we work with. We simply don’t want to hear about our shortcomings or even strengths.

Later on, this fear and avoidance will manifest itself into career destructive behaviors such as procrastination, jealousy, denial and many others, which will degrade the company overall culture health.

Let’s walk you through tips I learned during my career in tech to not only welcome feedbacks but also be driven by feedbacks and leverage constructive feedback to grow.

#1 - Start with internal feedback

It is easier to get judged by ourselves than by people. One way to start with internal feedback is using self-assessments. Self-assessments is a great tool to make us familiar with our areas of growth. Although self-assessing yourself may seem hard at the beginning. Be consistent and try to review your work performance at least every month and at best every week.

Start with questions on your performance, try to identify areas of strength and areas you can improve on. Be honest and candor with yourself, no one is hearing you or watching you. So don’t just try to please yourself rather than facing reality. Think about your accomplishments and times you failed, Failure is a great opportunity for learning.

After you are done with the assessment, now it is time for “Action Items”. Action Items are crucial. There is no value in the assessment if it is not followed by actions you can take to improve. Remember the goal, this assessment is only for you, no one is going to see it and judge you.

Here is a sample self-assessment sheet I created to help you jump start your internal feedback sessions.

self-assessment sample template

#2 — Create a feedback loop

When you get comfortable with you critically judging yourself, now it is the time to S your feedback loop. I suggest you start with people you feel comfortable with and emotionally safe around.

Start with people you trust, like your partner, or a friend. Create feedback sessions with them and ask them questions. Allow them to speak to you without interruption. It is important to be a listener in those conversations. Smile and let your the other person express their point of views.

Remember, feedback is a sign of value. It is for you to grow. If someone gives you the feedback it is because they care for you, and they care for your growth.

#3 — Broader your feedback loop

Next, start adding your colleagues to the loop. Start with informal questions, like: How was my project presentation? How did I lead this project? How is this block of code? Can I write it better?

Remember, feedback is valuable and effective when it is followed by action items. Note down their point of views. Be open and try to listen instead of justifying.

Feedback is not fact. When you hear feedback you need to analyze it and see how accurate it is. Sometimes, it might be a miscommunication, or, it can be due to misunderstandings. If you hear a feedback that does not resonate with you or you don’t agree with, setup follow up conversations with that person, ask more questions and try to understand where they are coming from. Know that you do not necessary have to agree with every piece of feedback when it’s not realistic.

#4 — Schedule regular feedback sessions with your manager

After all these steps, in a couple of months, you should be a pro in feedback receiving. Then it is time to get even more serious and schedule regular feedback sessions with your manager. You can also use some of your regular 1-on-1 meetings to discuss feedbacks. Here is a sample meeting arrangement:

  • Review your self-assessment: I suggest to share your self-assessment results with your manager ahead of time to review prior to the meeting.
  • Ask for feedback: Prepare questions for your manager. Ask how did you do? Don’t ask open-ended and generic questions. Be specific with tasks and projects.

Here are some sample questions you can ask your manager in your 1-on-1 meetings:

How did I do on project x meeting when I was presenting the requirement documents?

What are the areas that I am strong in when I run technical projects?

What are the areas that I need to improve on in project document writing?

How can I excel in my current role in the next 6 months?

How is my communication skills in meetings and chats? Do I communicate clearly?

How do I operate within the team?

  • Set Action Items and goals: Set action items and goals based on the feedback you received with your manager.

We talked about 3 main step to get comfortable with receiving feedback.

  1. Start with internal feedback
  2. Create a feedback loop
  3. Expand your feedback loop over time

It is important to know that feeling a bit hurt and sad after receiving a negative feedback is totally natural. I look at feedback similar to public speaking. You will gain more and more experience at it over time, you will learn how to handle comfortable situation and stages, but you will never be 100% comfortable and that is totally normal.

So now, put 10 mins of your time after reading this article and think about how did you do last week at work. Start with internal feedback. I hope this journey makes you grow. 🌱

☕️Coffee lover. 👩🏻‍💻engineer for life. 💁🏻‍♀️ Mentor & Speaker. currently @NetflixUIE 🍿

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