Let’s face it, the workplace can often times prove challenging. It’s not always easy to put your best foot forward. And when caught in the act, we are often confronted with feedback, whether we ask for it or not. In the heat of the moment, sometimes the feedback comes across as criticism rather than helpful; as a personal dig rather than a valuable piece of advice.
As you can likely imagine, working in healthcare provides many “feedback” opportunities. Working in an industry where customer service is measured constantly, the pressure of financial loss hangs in the background if we don’t get it right. Service recovery becomes of utmost importance. Collaborating with managers across the organization, we look for ways to provide meaningful coaching when situations do not turn out quite right.
On one such occasion, an employee was counseled about an interaction with a patient and his family. The family was quite agitated over this interaction, and the need to intervene was imperative. When confronted, the employee became defensive, looking to find an explanation for his behavior. The manager asked this employee to stop being defensive, and to apologize to the patient and his family. The employee did apologize but this apology did not seem heartfelt, and the employee once again became defensive and looked to explain his behavior. This only made matters worse for the patient and the family.
After learning more about the situation, a quick diagnosis led me to believe the root cause of the disruptive behavior comes from the manner in which the feedback was provided. It seemed to me the manager used a raised voice, demanding an apology from the employee. It was a public admonishment. In retrospect, the manager realized that there could have been another way to handle the situation. The manager agreed she could have brought the employee to a private area, explained the issue, provided more of an explanation as to the importance of the apology, and our collective need to provide top-notch customer service. The employee was stripped of his dignity in front of colleagues and other patients. Of course he was upset!
The situation above was unplanned, but often times, feedback can be planned. When I am in a position to provide feedback, whether good or constructive, I like to ask the person if they are open to hearing some feedback. Rarely has anyone ever said “no.” In asking for permission, I’ve opened the door for the person to be receptive to hearing it. I look to find words and phrases that will not cause a defensive reaction. For example, “Your presentation could be even more powerful if you added … to it,” or “You could be more impactful with your clients if you paused more frequently between sentences and listed more.” The idea is to build the person up, not tear him or her down.
The motivation of providing feedback needs to come from a place of selflessness in order to be meaningful. In other words, the person needs to feel you want them to be successful, and you are not just providing it to be critical. I ask employees to listen to the feedback, do not respond defensively, and take the time to process it. Sometimes, the feedback stings a little bit, but if provided to make you better, be glad you heard it, and have someone in your life that cares enough to provide it to you. I always say, yes, feedback is a gift, but everyone has the choice to take or leave it.
- Richard Finger has worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and has worked with small, private organizations, global corporations, and most currently, a healthcare organization. Richard has worked abroad a number of years in England as well as The Netherlands, where he acquired a great appreciation for cultural awareness. He currently holds three Human Resource Certifications (SHRM-SCP, SPHR, SPHRi), and is also teaching the SHRM-CP/SHRM-SCP preparation course at Howard County Community College. Richard earned his Bachelor Degree in Psychology at University of Central Florida, and Master Degree in Human Resources Management & Labor Relations at New York Institute of Technology. Richard has been writing for Baltimore Outloud for a number of years, contributing articles about his Human Resources experiences, as well as moonlighting as the author of Finger's Food restaurant reviews. Richard has enjoyed writing for the paper, and looks forward to many more opportunities to do so.