M&Ms for your Thoughts?

When, if ever, is it appropriate to give honest feedback at work?


He wouldn’t stop staring at me. His smug smile so disingenuous. His red, round body had a portly presence, but it was hard to get past the way his eyes seemed to read into my thoughts. I couldn’t tell if it was ironic that such a normally small character took up almost a third of the page, his left hand pointing towards the phrase “M&Ms for your thoughts?” listed at the top. There was no amount of red M&M men that could keep me from wondering if this sheet of paper with only 4 questions on it regarding my experience in my current role was a cheap trick or a real opportunity to improve our employee experience.

I pondered over whether or not to respond for the next few minutes and then decided it was worth the risk.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, then you know my career journey has been a roller coaster. Corporate america is never easy, but as of late, my experience with my current position has been almost unbearable.  From a poor management team to lack of recognition, if it feels as though my department has found a way to cram some of the worst possible employment experiences into my last seven months on the job. Despite multiple attempts to make the best out of a bittersweet situation, I haven’t been able to find the right way to go about things. I’ve always balanced on the fine line of having something to say but not wanting to jeopardize the perception of myself with management. So when the M&M feedback sheet made it’s way to my desk, it seemed like the perfect chance to voice my opinion. It asked 4 questions:

  • What do you like most about your job?
  • What do you dislike about your job?
  • What can management do to help?
  • What does management do well?

One thing about me is that I always tend to read into whatever is presented my way. The questions felt dull and considering the fact that the red M&M man took up a considerable amount of the page, there was very little room to provide a thoughtful response by just pen and paper. So I opted for a digital version so I could type my response. I erased all the junk until I was left with a blank canvas ready to be painted with my raw thoughts and emotions.

I carefully crafted my responses to not be too critical, opting to provide constructive feedback with each “area of opportunity” that I could identify. I didn’t want them to write off my response as just another person whining about what they didn’t like. With our current management team, that would do nothing but get my opinions thrown out.

About an hour and a half later I had almost four pages completed. I couldn’t help but wish I had this same amount of passion and energy when I had to write papers in school. I decided to write my feedback anonymously and waited anxiously until most of the department had left before I stuffed my comments into the feedback box.

The following week each manager (3 total) led private conversations with groups to allow for verbal feedback. During my session, I was surprised to hear people who had barely uttered a word before, be quick to voice their opinion. It almost made me feel vindicated. By the time we were done, I felt without a doubt there was no way management would not feel compelled to hear our critiques and finally make the reasonable changes we had all been looking for.

But that didn’t happen.

To my disappointment, it seems as though the feedback has only fueled their fire in the fight of us vs. them. As we’ve already had three people quit, I myself have been playing with the idea of leaving the department. I would hate to see myself up and leave, but no position is worth the long hours and demanding tasks with little to no recognition. So while I begin my search for a new position, I can’t help but find myself asking: is it really worth providing feedback at work?

Have you ever been in a similar position? If so, what tips or advice do you have for others faced with the same challenge?

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