SHRM Lessons: Feedback vs. Attention vs. Gratitude

July 1, 2015 Lynette Silva Heelan

by Lynette Silva

Recognize This! -- There's much difference between feedback, attention and gratitude. All are real needs, but serving different goals.

In surprising news to no one, this week is the SHRM 2015 conference in Las Vegas. In fact, RecognizeThis! founder Derek Irvine (and VP of Client Strategy & Consulting for Globoforce) is speaking there today at 11:30 (for those at SHRM, it's Mega Session: The Power of "Thanks": Bringing Workplace Gratitude to the Next Level; Westgate Pavilion 2).

Even though I'm not at SHRM, I'm assiduously following the tweets, blog posts and other reports flowing out of the show. I love this additional insight into some of my favorite bloggers and what they take away as key lessons from such an event. Take, for example, Tim Sackett's post yesterday - We All Just Want Attention - reporting on Marcus Buckingham's keynote session. As Tim said:

"The big bomb he dropped on the SHRMies this session was the money-shot quote of the conference: Millennials don’t want feedback! ... Those organizations with high engagement are not the ones who are giving more feedback. They are the ones who are paying more attention to their employees.  Yes, there is a difference... "In reality, Marcus told us the truth.  Millennials, and the rest of us, don’t want feedback, we all want attention. Pay attention to us!  Stop by frequently and see how we are doing, give us some insight to our near future, help us get our jobs done.  But, please, don’t give us feedback on what we are doing wrong!"

I couldn't agree more. We've written about this point of view several times here. It's one of the topics that drives me a bit batty, actually, when talking about "Millennials at work." Millennials are just like every other "new to the workplace" generation before them. They cry out for acknowledgement, coaching, insight and development. It's more "Is this what you wanted to see? Is the work I do valuable? How am I contributing to achieving bigger goals?" and less "give me a gold star." But this is necessarily a balancing act. Not all work done by anyone, much less by those new to the field or company, is good all time. Sometimes constructive feedback is necessary. Tim puts it this way:

"Some employees need to be managed to get the most out of them.  They need to be held accountable. I do think there is a balance that we can get to when it comes to paying attention to our employees, like they want, and being able to ‘manage’ them like the business needs."

It's that balancing act we've got to do better. We've let the pendulum swing too far (for too long) to annual performance reviews (or quarterly) that remain too focused on the constructive discussion for acts done too far in the past to be useful to the listener. We must become better at real-time attention and, yes, gratitude and appreciation from multiple sources.

We must enable and encourage everyone to assume responsibility for picking our heads up out of our own work and appreciating the work of those around us - even if those excellent efforts demonstrated or achieved by others had no direct bearing on us.

If you're at SHRM, be sure to check out Derek's session to learn more about the attention/appreciation/gratitude side of the need for feedback. Do you get the attention you need at work?


About the Author

Lynette Silva Heelan

Lynette Silva is a principal consultant on Workhuman’s Strategy & Consulting team, partnering with clients on change strategies to make work more human.

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