“Marcus, you don’t have the backbone for this job. You simply don’t have the balls. I’m telling you this for your benefit.”
Writing that today makes me nauseous. In my mind, I’m instantly transported back into Jim’s office. See, I’d just interviewed for a job I thought was already mine…
I’d been promised the promotion a year before when my boss, Vishal, chose me as his successor to lead the 70 person Software Engineering group. Vishal had been mentoring me for over 14 months, and I was ready and excited to take the job.
Except at the last minute Vishal’s boss, Jim, insisted the position be opened for everyone to apply. I was told not to worry; this was just a formality so others would respect my promotion. Jim conducted the interviews. Jim decided who made it to the second and third round. And, Jim decided he alone would make the final decision.
Sitting in that final interview, I was SO confident I’d get the job. I mean, there was NO doubt about it.
So, when I heard him say that fateful sentence in the final interview, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. Not only was this feedback super harsh, but I also have no idea where it came from. Jim went on to tell me that one of my direct reports, Scott, would get the job instead. I’d be demoted back to Team Lead.
I don’t know Jim’s intention, but it’s hard to imagine he was trying to be helpful. Instead, if felt like he deceived and humiliated me, waiting until the perfect time to pull the rug out from under me.
When I say that poorly given feedback sucks, I speak from experience. And, people who receive this kind of feedback remember (and resent) it for years. To this day, it’s hard to talk about this painful experience.
But, there’s a silver lining. I care so much about this topic that this upcoming workshop trains you to give and receive feedback well because I don’t want you or your team to suffer the way I did. This is my favorite topic of the workshop, and people tell me it’s a game changer for them.
Ok, enough crying in my coffee. Maybe you remember a time when you got hurtful, insulting feedback that was given “for your benefit.” And, maybe it still stings.
If so, you are not alone. And I know you’ll never want to do that to your team, even if it’s “for their benefit.”