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‘Distrust, politics, infighting and gossip’: why companies are paying the price for avoiding feedback

We might think we’re dodging a bullet by using self-reporting personality tests. But avoiding candid feedback can spell disaster for teams, according to research.

Whilst 95% of us may think we’re self-aware, only 10-15% of us actually are. Those are the findings of Tasha Eurich’s multi-year study.

In her piece for Harvard Business Review, Audrey Epstein claims that candid feedback holds the answer:

“We need feedback to help match our internal view of ourselves with the external view. And on the best teams, not only are teammates willing to provide feedback to each other, they are required to do so.”

Epstein identifies four categories, from the worst (“Saboteur teams”) to the best (“Loyalist teams”), based on her own years of research into teams. Whilst Saboteur teams suffer from distrust, politics, infighting and gossip, Loyalist teams enjoy more trust, honesty, shared objectives and joint accountability. Her findings support those of Google’s Project Aristotle into psychological safety in teams.

A culture of candour

The evidence suggests that honest feedback is not just a one-off exercise. Instead, Loyalist teams with a culture of candour were far more likely to:

  • Debate and discuss when solving problems and making decisions;
  • Address unacceptable behaviours in the team promptly; and
  • Give each other tough feedback.

They were less likely to have issues the team couldn’t talk about – so-called ‘undiscussables’.

Biting the bullet

Some organisations are afraid of opening the floodgates on feedback, but the risks of not integrating honest feedback into team practices are far higher.

So, how do we benefit from feedback without threatening team harmony?

Belbin is a behaviour-based assessment that combines an individual’s responses with feedback from others in the team, to give a rounded view of a person’s strengths.

  • Don’t make it personal

By focusing on strengths and characteristics associated with each of the nine Belbin Team Roles, Belbin helps break down barriers and defuse the kind of conflicts which can arise from criticism.

  • Keep criticism constructive

The Belbin process ensures that feedback is balanced, identifies areas of consensus among teammates, and ensures that one person does not unduly influence results – for better or worse.

  • Assume positive intent

This is where trust comes in, says Epstein. Team members need to foster a culture in which others feel supported. This way, they’ll assume that others have their best interests at heart when offering feedback.

  • Approach findings with a growth mindset

Belbin Reports focus not only on explicit strengths, but also on latent talents you can cultivate. It’s not about finding fault, but about using knowledge to best advantage and discovering opportunities for growth.


Why not contact us today to find out what Belbin can do for your team?

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