Feedback – Examine What is Said, Not Who Speaks

Feedback – Examine What is Said, Not Who Speaks

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Discussion and feedback between appraiser and appraisee is necessary for professional development in every industry. The aim of the discussion is for the parties involved to exchange views on issues of team and individual performance, the achievement of targets and the development of skills and competences.

Of course, we expect our onboard colleagues to be competent at what they do already, perform operations in a text book manner that our old maritime professor would be proud of, we expect them not to make mistakes, we expect them to be safe at all times and I am quite sure they have a piece of paper to say they are competent. But, life isn’t like that. We rely on honest, constructive feedback to improve the way we work and behave. There is always space for improvement, no matter how long you’ve been in the business. Stop for a moment then, and ask yourself, does your feedback really make a difference?

Although performance appraisal and feedback are important at all stages of career development, they are particularly crucial at the start of a career (for example during a cadetship) because of the newcomer’s need to know how well (or poorly) they are mastering their chosen profession. Feedback must be frequent enough so that employees can make changes in their behaviour on an ongoing basis to maximize learning. Moreover, if the feedback is positive, it can serve as a powerful source of praise and reinforcement. Also, performance feedback sessions provide an opportunity for supervisors and subordinates to discuss their assumptions and expectations about each other – to clarify the psychological contract.

Feedback must be administered in a constructive, supportive manner if it is to be effective at all. Employees tend to hold two simultaneous yet conflicting needs. On one hand they want very honest, open feedback; they want to hear the truth. On the other hand, they also want to hear only good news to protect their sense of self-esteem and receive reward or continued contracts of employment.

Sometimes feedback is so negative and devastating, that an opposed and defensive relationship is created between the supervisor and subordinate. Did this ever happen to you? In some cases, supervisors are so concerned about being ‘nice’ or ‘kind’ that they provide no useful feedback to the subordinate whatsoever. Perhaps most frequently, supervisors are so uncomfortable with performance appraisal that they simply avoid the process altogether. Many of us have experienced feedback that is perhaps unfair and poorly timed. But what if you could find value in even the most poorly delivered evaluative comments, no matter where they come from?

The nature of our industry forces us to be always occupied. It forces us to reinvest our time in forming new relationships as our colleagues are swapped for new ones at each port, we are busy monitoring systems, charts, weather as well as being bombarded by technology and instant chat so having constructive performance feedback conversations that really make a difference is not always top of our agenda.

In summary, being competent (and confident) at providing and receiving constructive feedback is truly important to us all in our professional careers. In 2019 we will focus on honing these skills, providing you tools to develop your competency to provide and receive feedback. Feedback is surely a gift.

“There is no failure, only feedback.” Robert Allen

Richard Knighton, Fleet Personnel Deputy Director