Constructive Feedback vs. A Poke


There are times when co-workers or leaders may offer you some “constructive feedback.” But is the feedback really constructive or is it an attack or a not so pleasant “poke”? As people position for power and control in the workplace, it is important to know the difference and how to respond.

Constructive Feedback is contextual, focused on resolving a recent issue, and is not personal. Although Constructive Feedback may be uncomfortable, it is forward looking and seeks a resolution to the point of pain the “poker” is experiencing.

A Poke is a distraction that merely serves the selfish interest of the “poker” to dominate the “pokee.” A poke should be registered as an issue that deserves attention before it escalates into an unhealthy dynamic, either between the “poker” and the “pokee,” between the “poker” and his team, or the “pokee” and bystanders to the poke (your team and his team). A poke is a flag warning you of more unpleasant things to come.

If you believe the behavior falls on the continuum of dominance behavior then respond as an alpha animal would respond. Don’t ignore the “poker” and his bad behavior – an alpha animal would not ignore bad behavior. Instead, pay more attention to the “poker” and catch the subtle cues warning you that some form of dominance behavior is on the horizon. You job is to suppress the behavior quickly before it escalates.

Take the wind out of his sails through private conversations in which you professionally and in a neutral tone:

(1) get to the heart of his pokes/concerns/”feedback” and then, if necessary,
(2) “show him whose boss” so he understands the consequences of his unhelpful “pokes” or, if necessary,
(3) address him through a more public forum in which you publically display that you are smarter, more powerful, more thoughtful, and do not tolerate selfish behavior, which distracts and waste valuable resources (time and emotional investments of the entire team).

If the “poker’s” tenure is short, then consider that the energy you spend in changing the dynamic is like a relatively safe workshop. There may come a time when you may not be so lucky and a “poker” may be a high profile leader who is here to stay.