Feedback fatigue is a common phenomenon where individuals feel overwhelmed from excessive negative feedback by their employer and eventually become disengaged or apathetic to it. The cause is too much feedback, too often, in a short period of time, or negative feedback that is irrelevant or lacks context. It is harmful as people need time to assimilate reviews into their behavior. Feedback typically requires change and time, and humans aren’t great with change and rarely have sufficient time. Ever felt this way? It seems that COVID plus fewer staff and overwork has increased it in most businesses.
Remember that this is NOT the same as Survey Fatigue. The latter is almost exclusively confined to customers simply receiving too many requests via customer surveys. We have written before about how this can be overcome in just 4 steps.
There are several ways to prevent feedback fatigue. For example, it is important to establish clear communication norms with your team and manage the expectations surrounding feedback. This might include limiting the amount of feedback each individual receives at one time and making sure it is meaningful and timely. Moreover constructive feedback is the only type that matters. This is just a sampler of some action steps – read on for more.
So – feeling bogged down by too much feedback? This what we are going to review:
- ONE :What Is Feedback Fatigue
- TWO :Managing Fatigue: Strategies for Protecting Your Time
- THREE :How Leaders Can Overcome Feedback – use this guide for 5 simple tips on how to reduce and deal with fatigue!
What Is Feedback Fatigue
As organizations strive to become more data-driven, feedback has become a fundamental component of operations. However, this need to constantly be providing feedback to staff and can lead to “feedback fatigue”. This occurs when the act of providing feedback becomes a chore, rather than a meaningful part of the job. This can not only diminish the quality of feedback, but also decrease motivation and morale amongst employees. Does it impact the business? Yes, so take it seriously – consider this:
A 2019 Gallup study found that receiving negative feedback had pushed almost 30% of respondents to start actively looking for a new job.
OK – so now we know it is serious, what is the effective path forward?
Managing Feedback Fatigue: Five Step Strategies for Protection
The first step to easing the stress is asking for feedback often and regularly.
Many people don’t ask for feedback because they are afraid of being judged or embarrassed. But again, feedback should be a regular occurrence. If you aren’t asking your employees for feedback, then you aren’t taking advantage of one of the most important aspects of human psychology. Specifically, the desire to be noticed and appreciated. So for crying out loud – ask for feedback on a regular basis. This doesn’t mean that you have to ask for it every day or even every week, but make sure that you take steps to make receiving feedback easier. Furthermore when do you do ask, then do it wisely.
Here are some examples:
- What can I do to help – perhaps to remove a fatiguing task?
- How can I improve as an employee?
- What’s been going well lately?
- How has my work affected our team today?
- How did I perform today?
- Where do we stand as a team today?
- How am I doing in this role/this job/in general?
- How can our team improve the customer experience?
The second step is to let people know why they’re getting feedback.
The best way to avoid feedback fatigue is to let everyone know why they’re getting feedback. If you don’t know, ask for feedback. If you do know, be honest about it and tell your employees that you’re looking for their thoughts and insights. You can also give them the opportunity to suggest improvements or ideas on how you could improve as a company leader. Often this is called 360 degree reviews and shows you take this seriously – so they should as well. This will not only help keep morale up, but it’ll also help make your employees feel like their input matters.
The third step is to get rid of any incentive programs that reward people for negative reviews
If an employee is feeling that negative comments are overwhelming, simply asking them if they’re having any difficulties should be enough to alleviate some of the stress. If you receive complaints about a specific employee, talk to them directly and ask if there’s anything they need from you. Alternatively, if they have any problems that they’re not comfortable bringing up themselves – then ask for anonymous ratings and comments.
The fourth step is to create an environment of trust
One of the most important steps in helping to alleviate feedback fatigue is creating an environment that fosters trust. Trust is a pivotal factor in human interactions, and it’s difficult to develop trust with people when they feel as though you’re withholding information. The latter can easily lead to disengagement. People want to know you’re sincere and honest about your intentions. It’s beneficial for employees to feel supported and involved in the decision-making process. Employees want to know their thoughts and input matter, so make sure they feel like this by acknowledging them.
There are several methods to consider:
ONE: Create transparency around feedback. When sharing feedback with employees, let them know how you will use it, be it internally or externally, and when they may expect a response from you.
TWO: Provide support during difficult times. Supporting employees during challenging times helps alleviate stress on individuals and provide relief for those feeling overwhelmed by criticism.
THREE: Provide frequent opportunities for feedback. Not only does providing regular opportunities for feedback ensure that employees are getting it consistently but also that your organization is attuned to potential issues before they cause serious damage.
FOUR+: Another possible solution for feedback fatigue is to remove it from your work environment entirely by bringing feedback outside of work. If you can’t bring it into work, then maybe you don’t need it at all. However, if you feel that when you’re at work, you need to receive feedback in order to improve, then try finding ways to have constructive conversations with those who are reviewing your performance. It’s important to identify what motivates them and what they want out of the conversation.
The fifth step is to change the way you ask for feedback
Consider some of the following to shake up the way staff view traditional review sessions:
Ask for feedback from your team before you provide any. If you’re feeling feedback fatigue, one way to ease the stress is to ask your team for feedback before you provide any. This will give you the opportunity to gain an understanding of what they value in your work and will help them feel more comfortable with giving their opinions. You can also ask your employees what they think you could be doing better.
Requesting feedback or comments can be a great way to get fresh ideas and new perspectives, but if you’re not careful, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the amount of feedback you receive. To avoid feedback fatigue, it’s important to change the way you ask for feedback. Instead of asking open-ended questions, which can lead to more comments than you can handle, focus on specific areas that need improvement or feedback. For example:
What is the ONE area that we can focus on that would make the biggest difference to your job success?
Make sure to limit the number of questions you ask, and always give people an easy way to opt-out if they don’t want to provide feedback. This way, you’re more likely to get the feedback you need without feeling staff being overwhelmed.
One of the primary causes of feedback fatigue is the lack of time for a break. Constantly giving and receiving feedback can be overwhelming, as it can be difficult to find the time to step back, process, and reflect. To break up the monotony, it is important to make time for breaks throughout the day and between cycles of feedback. These breaks should be a chance to take a step back and recharge, enabling us to return to our work refreshed and energized. It is particularly important that everyone, both feeder and receiver, take regular breaks to minimize the negative impacts of fatigue.
Allow an ‘anonymous’ option ie. staff deliver feedback on their terms. The better the term (including withholding their name), the more feedback and the clearer the feedback.
Conclusion – Act Now
In conclusion, feedback fatigue is a real issue for many workplaces. Taking the time to assess what type of feedback is best for each individual and providing employees with the tools and resources to understand and process feedback can help reduce feedback fatigue. Additionally, having an open dialogue with employees to discuss their individual needs and preferences will foster a culture of trust and understanding, ultimately leading to a more productive and positive work environment.