Managers are often advised to seek feedback on their performance and reviews from team members.
But researchers found instead that sharing critical managerial feedback had greater positive effects on team dynamics.
During their studies, researchers divided over 100 team leaders into four groups:
- Leaders in the first group were told to ask team members for feedback on their performance
- Leaders in the second group were told to discuss development areas from their own performance reviews
- Leaders in the third group did both
- Leaders in the fourth group did neither
After a year, teams whose leaders had shared negative feedback about themselves reported significant improvement.
Leaders initially felt anxious and employees were sceptical and largely remained quiet. But as leaders continued to share, vulnerability was normalised, allowing feelings of safety to grow.
When leaders asked for feedback, by contrast, employees tended to speak up but leaders sometimes reacted
defensively, because they felt judged and were not ready to make a public commitment to vulnerability.
The feedback often concerned things that were not very useful or controllable for leaders. So for these teams, employees went on saying less and less to their leaders, while the leaders became more and more unresponsive.
Researchers concluded that leaders who asked their team for performance feedback actually compromised team dynamics, while sharing feedback with the team helped employees to concentrate on issues that were really important.
Adapted from HBR 202202 – “Taking Your Team Behind the Curtain: The Effects of Leader Feedback-Sharing and Feedback-Seeking on Team Psychological Safety,” by Constantinos G.V.