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Santa Invented Real-Time Feedback

Tips from Santa's annual review process

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Santa Invented Real-Time Feedback
Santa Invented Real-Time Feedback

Have you ever gotten a performance rating that was lower than expected? Has a raise disappointed you?  Did you miss a promotion you thought you’d get?  

At times in career coaching, my clients and I explore how to manage disconnects at work–disconnects that have demotivated and eroded trust.  These disconnects often surface at performance review time when unwelcome news on raises, bonuses and promotions come as a bit of a surprise.

It dawned on me that we could learn something from Santa here.  For Santa believers, the big questions of the season are always:

  • Have we been good?
  • What do we want this year?

These are the same questions we get asked at work every year in the performance review:

  • Did we do good work?  
  • What are we expecting as a fair reward for doing that work?

It seems Santa invented the concept of real-time feedback.  We start out as toddlers being evaluated and rewarded by Santa.  Be good; get stuff.  Pretty simple.  And we get feedback throughout the year letting us know when we’re off track for Santa. Hugs, raised voices, wagging fingers, Elf on the Shelf.

We then become teenagers. Being good–like respecting curfew, homework and the law–gets us some stuff, but not all the stuff we really want. We may have to pitch in a little to help Santa.   If we stay good throughout the year and pitch in some portion of the cost, we’ll likely get what we want from (wink) Santa.

Then we become adults, and we go to work.  We still need to be good to get stuff, but defining what it means to be good gets a little hazy.  We don’t typically receive the same timely feedback throughout the year that made us so successful when working with Santa. This results in surprises, and not the good kind wrapped in shiny paper with a bow.

People need a better way to know throughout the year if they’re being good at the work they do, and if they’re on track to get the reward they see as fair.  Maybe there’s a need for Boss in the Moss or Honcho in a Poncho. 

Ask for timely feedback. Give timely feedback. Prevent surprises when the 2021 seasonal questions roll around:

  • Have you been good?
  • What do you want this year?

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