Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It, How to Fix It

Giving Feedback

For most of us, "feedback" is an eight-letter word that often feels like a four-letter word - but like it or not, it's a critical part of corporate improvement and performance. In this episode, author M. Tamra Chandler talks about her latest book, Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It, How to Fix It ,and explores the different ways we can improve the feedback process and ultimately #fixfeedback! Here, she'll explain:

  • Why there's such stigma attached to the feedback process;
  • The three roles that build better feedback practices; 
  • The value of developmental (versus evaluative) feedback; and 
  • Why feedback is the "secret sauce" to increasing a leader's effectiveness!
Giving Feedback

M. Tamra Chandler

   Performance    Management

“All of us want to grow, all of us want to thrive, all of us want to know that we're valuable and that the work that we do matters -- and it's through feedback that we can do all of those things."

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The Feedback Process

  • The whole feedback process needs fixing -- offering, receiving, and giving. But the first place to start is how we seek feedback.
  • Both employees and leaders who are good at giving and receiving feedback perform better. 
  • "All of us want to grow, all of us want to thrive, all of us want to know that we're valuable and that the work that we do matters -- and it's through feedback that we can do all of those things."


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The Stigma of Feedback

  • Feedback has such a big stigma. So many people inherently associate feedback with negativity. 
  • This stigma is rooted all the way back in our childhood, when we get negative feedback from people, and those words stick. 
  • Negative feedback threatens our desire for belonging and acceptance.

Feedback (And Other Dirty Words)

  • This is Ms. Chandler’s second book. 
  • Her first book was How Performance Management Is Killing Performance—and What to Do About It: Rethink, Redesign, Reboot, published in 2016.
  • That book examined the flaws in how we think of performance management. Ms. Chandler works with clients to enhance performance management, and she discovered that she needed to dig deep into how to fix the current model of performance management. 
  • Through her work, she discovered that an unhealthy feedback environment is a big problem in so many companies. So, she and her co-author Laura Grealish took it upon themselves to write another book about how to fix feedback.

How Feedback is Broken

  • We associate feedback with fear. How do we decrease fear and increase trust?
  • We have to start viewing feedback as a positive thing to give and receive.
  • In self-reports, people always say that they want more constructive feedback than positive feedback, but that isn’t really true. People want and crave positive feedback from their leaders. We want to know what we’re doing right and how to keep doing it.
  • Feedback doesn’t have to stay broken. Ms. Chandler’s book offers a new definition of feedback, and states that feedback shouldn’t hurt - it should help people grow, thrive, and advance, because we’re all working to improve.

Fixing Feedback

  • Trust is the root of all foundations of positive feedback. When people trust each other and connect with each other, they open up. Positive connections make all kinds of relationships thrive, including workplace relationships.
  • There are three roles in feedback. The Seeker, The Receiver, and The Extender: 
  • The Seeker goes after feedback that matters to them. 
  • The Receiver takes in feedback, whether they’re looking for it or not. 
  • The Extender has to engage in conversations that help the seekers.

The Three F’s

  • Every movement needs a flag to fly under and this book’s movement to fix feedback flies under the flag of The Three F’s:
  • Fairness is about setting aside our own perspectives, biases, prejudices, and judgements. 
  • Focus is about focusing and zeroing in on one thing. We can’t process too many things at one time. So we have to choose one thing at a time.
  • Frequency is about asking lots of different people for feedback. Frequency is a huge driver against bias. The more frequent feedback we receive, the less biases that are left to influence us. 

Annual Reviews

  • Annual performance reviews are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
  • The is because the best feedback happens off the cuff, not in scheduled, formalized annual performance review. 
  • Again, feedback is best when delivered frequently, not just once a year.

Evaluative vs Developmental Feedback

  • Evaluative feedback: Deals with factual and measurable factors. Did we accomplish the goal that we set out? What got in our way? What can we do differently next time? 
  • Developmental feedback: Looks forward to what “we” (coach and the person being coached) can do to improve and create a more positive future.

The Importance of Trust

  • Trust is key, and is developed through connections.
  • Going into conversations with a genuine desire to learn what people are dealing with will go a long way in developing trust

The Secret Sauce  

  • The book refers to feedback as the secret sauce to increasing a leader’s effectiveness. 
  • People want their leaders to help them thrive at their jobs. 
  • Leaders have to engage their teams in feedback conversations, and teams have to be open to these conversations. 
  • Ms. Chandler references a Zenger and Folkman statistic about feedback: The top 10% of people who ask for feedback were in 86th percentile for leadership effectiveness. Meanwhile, the bottom 10% of people who ask for feedback were in the 15th percentile for leadership.

Mitigating the Fear of Feedback  

  • Leaders can adopt these positive feedback practices.
  • One thing a leader can do is to go over what their team likes and dislikes about what they’re doing.
  • Leaders can also reach out to their teams for feedback on how they’re doing.
  • On that same note, leaders have to make sure they’re being good and graceful receivers of feedback. They shouldn’t punish their team for honest feedback.


  • Ms. Chandler and her team at PeopleFirm LLC were looking for a partner who could help them take their content to the next level.
  • That partner was EY, a company that works to develop quality leaders and help organizations solve their problems. 
  • Ms. Chandler is now a Principal/Partner at EY.

M. Tamra Chandler Backstory


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