Is There Anything Worse Than No Feedback?

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Is There Anything Worse Than No Feedback?

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You’ve been waiting far too long, why haven’t you heard anything? In the scope of your workplace life some might believe that the subject of feedback is relatively unimportant, but others strongly disagree.


Have you ever been given a new job task or duty and waited for some feedback from your supervisor? Have you applied for a job and anxiously waited for some news only to hear nothing? Have you made a phone call or sent an email that was significant to you and waited for a response that never came?


It seems that much of our society today has grown accustom to the idea that if you don’t want to deal with something, you just let it go. You never say anything, you never respond, you just do nothing. Some believe that this is the socially accepted norm, and others want to jump out of their skin with frustration.

A lack of returned calls, return email messages, and very limited job performance feedback represent costs that are significantly underestimated in today’s workplace. Much of this could be categorized and labeled as poor communication, but what is worse than the communication aspect is that there is an enormous amount of anxiety and stress associated with organizational cultures that support this style. Of course, someone might suggest that it is only stressful if you allow it or if your expectations are too high, or with a bit of sarcasm, express that it only matters if you care.

Generational Challenges

Through people that I’ve coached or otherwise informally surveyed it would appear that the more recent workforce generations typically are not as anxious about a return telephone call or an email when compared with those generations that have been in the workforce longer. In fact, for the more recent generations we might have to dig deeper to the medium of text messaging or social media channels to find their preferred communication platform, but even there they likely don’t expect it. On the other hand, they might feel a little anxious about a lack of feedback concerning their job performance.

There is a workplace stereotype often associated with this issue suggests that baby boomer supervisor’s want a culture of no news is good news, but millennial direct reports want immediate gratification. Stereotype or not, if this is real, it signals a communication problem and when ignored or taken for granted this often leads to higher levels of anxiety, more absenteeism, and even employee turnover.

I Don’t Want Feedback

This topic wouldn’t be complete without addressing those who believe job performance feedback is their worst enemy. I’ve heard the arguments in seminars. Some believe that any feedback at all is counterproductive, but especially distasteful and unwanted is feedback that signals any kind of performance improvement. They often offer that they give their best effort to all of their work and if it isn’t good enough, then it just is-what-it-is. They offer the challenge that they would be much more motivated if people said nothing and just allowed them to continue with their work.

I challenge that if there is something wrong, incorrect, or that could be improved wouldn’t you want to know? Would you feel any embarrassment if you were producing poor or rejected work for weeks, months, or years and no one told you? Imagine everyone walking on egg shells while your ego is pleased because you’ve received no feedback. No one said you had to like it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. And with that said, yes, there is a difference between constructive feedback and negative or mismanaged feedback. Feedback experts will insist that it is not constructive criticism, it is constructive feedback.

I would like to suggest that there should be more returned calls, more email responses, and more constructive feedback.

Is there anything worse than no feedback? Sure, it is feedback that is mismanaged, but that is a different topic.


Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and coach that specializes in helping businesses and individuals accelerate their leadership, their team, and their success. He is the author of the newly released book, Forgotten Respect, Navigating A Multigenerational Workforce. Reach him through his website at or by calling +1 646.546.5553.

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October 21, 2016at 11:09 am

I would like to know how each generation defines and understands feedback?

How do you define feedback?



    October 21, 2016at 3:48 pm

    And, what do you consider timely feedback?

    What would timely feedback be across the generations?

    Curious 🙂

      Dennis Gilbert

      October 23, 2016at 9:18 am

      Timely feedback perhaps should be looked at as the most appropriate time. Sometimes in the heat of the moment is not the best, but at the same time procrastinating too long is also problematic. So often in supervisory or managerial roles the bigger problem is procrastination. Have you ever witnessed a feedback exchange gone bad?

    Dennis Gilbert

    October 23, 2016at 9:15 am

    Interesting question about feedback and how each generation might process or manage it. I think that is sounding like a future post! There definitely are some differences from the traditional and baby boomers to the millennials and Gen Z population.

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