In Tuesdays lecture we discussed the importance of feedback and how this would contribute to our individual grades for MikesBikes. We were informed that the allocation of grades (for the 20%) would be largely based on how our peers judge our effort and performance in the team. During this discussion in class, the following problem dawned on me: how do I effectively give feedback to team members without creating conflict in the team and building tension between myself and others?
Peter mentioned that it was important to frequently give feedback to team members so they are aware of whether their team is happy with the amount of work they are putting in. This is also to ensure that there are no surprises when it comes to peer reviews. Additionally, this feedback helps to minimalize the hitchhiker problem (Oakley et al, 2004). While I completely agree that regular feedback is important, I feel that it can be a lot more complicated than telling someone your honest opinion of their efforts and ideas (without getting personal of course). I don’t like to hurt other people’s feelings, so I often swallow my honest opinion in situations where I probably should say something. In my previous experiences of working in teams at university, I have found it difficult to give advice to other team members when I hold no real authority. In a business setting, managers review employees performance, but have their formal job position (or management title) to support their criticisms/praises which makes them feel more official. Sometimes I feel like I’m not in a position to tell others they are not putting enough effort in, and worry that they will only take this personally. In university where we are all on a level playing field, students who think they are about the rest tend to brush of peer feedback when it could in fact benefit themselves and the team as a whole, which is quite frustrating. This often happens when domineering team members try to make everyone do things their way (Oakley et al, 2004) and won’t take advice from others. My past experiences working in teams and possibly my personality have shaped my concerns about honest feedback, which meant I had to decide on some possible ways I could approach this problem.
One of the most important steps in the initial stages of forming a team is to set expectations (Oakley et al, 2004). In order to prevent tension developing in my team when honest (constructive) feedback is given, we could develop a set of expectations about how each member responds to feedback. If have these expectations in writing about feedback, we could refer back to them should any conflict or tension arise. This could also make sure we are all on the same page about giving and receiving feedback. Having an effective, regular feedback system relates to individual goal congruency within the team. Specific performance goals shape the teams purpose, and should ideally be homogeneous, as they facilitate clear communications and constructive conflict in the team (Katzenbach and Smith, 1992). This emphasises the importance of my team and I spending some time establishing a set of specific performance goals, which would ease my concerns about feedback creating conflict and tension.
I have learnt some methods of dealing with (or attempting to avoid) conflict and tension which are created when honest feedback is given. I am still nervous as to how this will play out in my team throughout the semester, however these theories have eased my concerns somewhat. I now understand theoretically how to deal with these situations, it’s now just a matter of putting it into practice.
Katzenbach, J. R. & Smith, D. K. (1992). Why teams matter. McKinsey Quarterly, (3), 3–27
Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of student centered learning, 2(1), 9--34.