This is why your young team aren’t feeding back to you

You have an idea and share it with your young team members.

As you speak, their body language sheds no clues as to how they feel.

Naomi’s eyes have been airbrushed of emotion, Brandon looks like he’s been tasered.

“Is it a good idea? Is it bad? What do you think?” you ask somewhat desparately.

“Yeah,” offers Ola, “could work.”

There’s something about Ola’s tone which seems to indicate he’s feeling sorry for the silence.

You’re a democratic boss, offering them accountability but every time you try to include them in decision making, they seem immobilised. Yet, decision making is what they want. They even told you.

Unlocking a door with your nose may be easier, you ponder.

Here are four reasons your young team aren’t feeding back to you

1.  They’re scared. A generation brought up on being body shamed on Snapchat is understandably reluctant about looking foolish in front of their peers. 121s or anonymising feedback helps them to build confidence.

2.  They think you’ve already made up your mind. You’re confident and excited but they see this as decisive. Your team doesn’t want to burst your balloon by suggesting tweaks. The antidote to this involves a bit of acting. Feigning uncertainty in your own idea can help to open the door to theirs.

3.  They’re introverts. Introverts aren’t necessarily quieter. That’s not a reliable marker of an introvert. What tends to be more dependable is their need to think about things more. So if you propose an idea, but let them think about it, they’re more likely to be able to contribute.

4.  They’re not sure what you’re trying to achieve and why: what’s in it for them? They’d be more motivated to chime in if they could see how this strategy would affect their roles. In addition to vested interest, make the journey clear – maybe visually with cartoons – read ‘stick people’ if your art skills are as basic as mine. One Team Leader I know has found that a timeline drawn on a serviette, snapped on the phone camera is explicit enough.

Your Action:

1.  Be more curious or tentative when proposing an idea so they don’t think you’re already committed to it.

2.  Try mentioning it to individuals independently then, if necessary, go back to them to see what they think.

3. Check that they see the journey clearly, or involve them in mapping it out.

4.  Ask them to put their thoughts on an anonymous portal such as Padlet. Having said that it doesn’t need to be a anonymised if they’ve sounded the idea out with you or others as generally they’ll have more courage putting their names to their concepts in such a situation.


Photo by Simon Robben from Pexels


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