Feedback is never optional

November 06, 2019

Ever had someone on your team that was “performing well, but…“?

She’s super productive and can push code like no one else, but sometimes she overlooks some details.

It’s easy to come up with excuses for not providing feedback for high performers. I’ve been there. We tell ourselves stories about how it will be discouraging to them and how it will hurt more than help.

What if the feedback is discouraging and his performance drops?

There may be a few things more discouraging than your feedback. Namely:

Not improving

Feedback is growth. It can both reinforce good behavior and discourage bad ones. But more importantly, it answers the question, “what do I have to do to get better?“.

And it’s not about getting better in general.

It’s about improving in the way your manager and organization see as excellent.

It’s about getting better in the eyes of the people that have control of their compensation and career.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Not getting a promotion

Withholding feedback sets back careers. If you can’t promote the engineer in question because of the shortcoming you’ve been avoiding to talk about, it’s on you.

When promotion time comes, and they find out they could have taken corrective actions had you told them, they will be furious at you.

They’ll feel sabotaged, lose trust in you, and lose interest in their career at your organization.

Holding back the team

Engineers are not the only ones interested in improving their skills. Growing engineers is also in the best interest of your team and your organization.

So, as a manager, it should be in your best interest too.

If an engineer isn’t growing because you’re withholding feedback, you’re the one responsible for the low-quality output.

What could you do instead?

Deliver the feedback respectfully, acknowledging their high performance and valuable contribution to the team and organization. Make it clear what your goals are when you bring that to the table, and your reports will know you have their interest in mind.