#7 The Bad News Bear – Only Provide Feedback When It’s Bad


The Bad News Bear

“If I am not hearing from my boss, I must be doing ok”

The plaintiff cry of the many. I don’t get feedback. The many rolling their sleeves up and getting the job done, but never hearing from their boss, unless something goes wrong. It’s behaviour that many accept and excuse. It is behaviour that has also become a pre-requisite for many leaders, and encouraged by many others.

I can still hear the word ringing in my ears, from many managers that I had:

“If you don’t hear from me, you’re doing ok. It’s when you hear from me that you know you’re not doing well.”

I worked with this Dumb Leader for almost two years, and the only time feedback was received was either at the formal performance appraisal (conducted as a tick and flick exercise and over with ten minutes) or when he wasn’t happy with something I had done.

It was the proverbial Bad News Bear. Every time he said that we need to talk, or that he wanted to give me feedback I knew it was all bad. Most of the time you never heard from him.

  • Record results – silence
  • Great service recognition – silence
  • Positive team feedback – silence

Always radio silence around the positive things in the business, but when it was something to criticise it was gleefully accepted.

I’m guessing many are grateful for this style of leader. They would usually never hear from them. It is the stereotype. If I’m not hearing anything, I must be doing ok. But many will also share the feeling of dread, every time they did receive feedback from the DL. Justified or not, it was never a nice feeling to hear from the leader only in times of negativity feedback or when formally requested.

  • The memory of a great marketing tie-up, with an energised store team, fantastic customer reviews and awesome sales response, was tempered by the one piece of sticky tape the DL picked up which allowed him to belittle the team members on their lack of attention to detail.
  • An 80% improvement in a safety audit result was criticised as it wasn’t perfect.
  • A fantastic profit result was hampered by the fact that the store had received one customer complaint during the month. (anyone in retail knows this is a pretty outstanding)

The Scenario

This scene plays out far too often in the business world. Leaders and employees not hearing from their direct reports unless something goes wrong or there is negative feedback to be provided. It occurs from a variety of reasons.

  1. The direct report has little confidence in themselves and therefore remains aloof and at a distance. The negative feedback is usually provided only when something is clearly wrong, maybe the direct report has received the feedback himself and that’s often the only reason the feedback is provided.
  2. It can be a power thing, where leaders keep the team members “in their place” and don’t have them getting “big heads” of delusions of grandeur. What better way then to keep people from achieving their potential than to keep people disillusioned and down.
  3. It may also come about from the way they have been led. It is well-known that leaders who don’t receive recognition themselves are unlikely to provide recognition to their teams.

So, we know the potential cause and the result is clear as well. These leaders are negligent as they don’t provide clear direction to their team members.  They are generally reactive leaders, reacting when things go wrong and happy to maintain the status quo when things are going well. They are often lazy leaders due to this trait. They do possess amazing hindsight, being able to clearly pinpoint everything that was wrong after the event, but none of this brilliance is every evident prior to the collapse. The laissez-faire style of leadership in this case is negligent and is more aligned to laziness than an intentional leadership style. Laissez-faire is usually effective when dealing with high skilled teams with high autonomy. But even they need feedback, and recognition.

The 3-Step Strategy

  • Every leader should have a clear map of what performance looks like. Aligned to the purpose of the team and linked back to the strategy of the business, the performance map includes goals and KPI’s and all members of the team commit to the performance standards.
  • Create a recognition plan. If recognition doesn’t come naturally create a plan. To create the best plan, you must first know what your team need in terms of recognition and rewards. Recognition needs to be personal, some like being publicly praised, others may like a simple pat on the back. Recognition should be personal, but rewards should be consistent.
  • Execute it. Understand that people thrive on encouragement. Don’t come out with a big song and dance, just implement and execute. Deliver and execute.

So, take charge and become the encouragement for your team they need to take them to the next level.


Photo by Kaiwen Sun on Unsplash

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