• I don’t know about the organization’s performance review system.
  • I fear the feedback may be unbalanced.
  • I am afraid of being blamed for organizational problems.
  • You, as my manager, don’t have full knowledge of their work.
  • I am afraid of negative consequences.
  • I fear managers have poor skills when discussing performance.


Self-reliance for survival was a necessary trait 100,000 years ago. But cooperation and emotional intelligence are more valued in today’s workplace. Blindness to our own behavior doesn’t work all that well in the work world, where interdependence and reliance on others is necessary to achieve organizational goals.

The key method for overcoming the feedback paradox is to address it directly. When you establish the Contract for Feedback, acknowledge directly that although employees say they want feedback, they also don’t want it. Acknowledge that it’s an inherently uncomfortable and difficult process, and that both of you have to agree to reinforce the advantages of feedback and to do it regularly because of its benefit despite the pain that may occur.

See if your employees will agree to the following items as part of the Contract for Feedback.


  • I must undergo continuous learning and improvement for effectiveness.
  • It’s only a “snapshot” of me, not the final statement.
  • If unconvinced about the feedback, I could say, “Why might people see me that way?”
  • I can hear what I am doing well.
  • It’s a good opportunity for “getting it on the table.”
  • My manager may genuinely want to help.