Active acceptance and anonymous #feedback

Photo by Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)

A few weeks ago I attended a 3-day seminar dealing with positive psychology. Even though I was familiar with most of the research and concepts presented there, I learned a few new ideas that have interesting implications. One of these is the idea of active acceptance which means that instead of fighting our feelings and trying to hide them (what we usually do automatically) we need to accept them as they are and think about their implications and reasons.

This, together with other research I have been reading lately, prompted me to think about feedback generally and about anonymous feedback specifically. Many companies pride themselves on having 360 degrees anonymous feedback. “Everybody in our company receives feedback from everybody else without anybody needing to fear the consequences” they report proudly. And while I love the idea of 360, the idea of anonymous just seems ridiculous to me. Susan Scott expresses this best in her book Fierce Leadership. In a chapter titled: “From 360-degree anonymous feedback to ‘365’ face-to-face feedback” she writes, after surveying the definition of the word anonymous, this:

In what universe would anonymous feedback, anonymous anything, be considered a best practice? No one I know wishes to be unremarkable, impersonal, faceless, or unknown – and it would be difficult to argue that anonymity enriches relationships or strengths connection with others. The fact is that feedback rarely creates real or lasting impetus for change, which is crazy because the whole idea is to encourage professional growth.

I asked myself why people employ this form of feedback. And my answer is simple. Because of the same reasons people avoid speaking up even when they know their boss is saying something completely wrong, or when somebody is mistreating them in a meeting or when somebody else in the company does something weird or our of the ordinary. All of these situations are uncomfortable. They make us feel bad about ourselves. They trigger our emotional fear and the need to conform. So, we back away – from conflict, from connection, from feedback and hide behind repression mechanisms or anonymity.

This is however not the answer but the problem itself. The only way to actually change things is by accepting them and dealing with them straight on. By putting things on the table, recognizing that we feel a certain way and that it does not mean that we are bad people, just people. So many habits and norms in corporate life are about avoidance, conformity and appearance. But we need, in real life as well as in the corporate life, is more active acceptance and active discussions about feelings, thoughts and behaviors. And this discussion should in no way be anonymous.



3 Responses to “Active acceptance and anonymous #feedback”

  1. Jo at Track Says:

    I agree that ideally we should all be mature enough to accept feedback directly from our colleagues – active acceptance is a lovely idea but somewhat unrealistic. As a 360 Degree Feedback designer, practitioner and coach, I can tell you that it takes at least a couple of years to build employees’ and managers’ confidence in their organisation’s feedback processes – as well as the broader culture of management, accountability, and whether people get help or get pulped when they make a mistake.

    You are missing the big point of 360 Degree Feedback here: the point of 360 is not to avoid feedback from your colleagues (although I admit that it’s sometimes used like this). The point about 360 Degree Feedback is that it collates trends and consistent messages that are coming from many people, not just one, and therefore can provide information that one person’s experience can’t. While individual comments and scores are useful, we coach people to look at consistent messages from the 360, not outliers.

    Jo at Track
    360 Degree Feedback

  2. sherfelad Says:

    Dear Jo at Track,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    I agree with most of it. Notice that even in my post I wrote: “while I love the idea of 360, the idea of anonymous just seems ridiculous to me”.
    The 360 part is just as important as the acceptance of feedback itself. I wrote in the past about the idea of Toxic Tandem, where bosses are ignorant to what employees think about them. One way to deal with that is going 360.
    I am also not saying that anonymous 360 can never work and does nothing! I am talking about the kind of culture we are advocating for and how people go through change. A culture that is built on anonymity is not sustainable and losses on our uniqueness as human beings. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it takes time. But the reward is well worth the effort.

    I really loved your comment. Hope to see you commenting more on this blog and looking forward to future discussions.


  3. 360 feedback Says:

    The 360 feedback is the new and powerful observation tool in generating the feedback that lead to the behavioral change and gives the better result, . It makes the individuality of the business more prominent that make it popular and easy to communicate 360 feedback.

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