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  • Feedback is a Two-Way Street

    Do you feel like your voice is never heard?

    Giving feedback to employees can go a long way to creating a positive workplace. David Niu understands the frustrations that millions of Americans have to deal with in the workplace. He, too, felt like his voice was never heard by bosses or upper management.

    "I definitely didn't feel that management was acknowledging my voice even though I was earnest in my feedback," Niu told Fast Company, a progressive business media brand.

    So what did Nui do?

    He came up with TINYPulse, a feedback technology system that now features more than 300 companies - including giant corporations such as Amazon, GE and Ticketmaster - on its client roster. Niu says he started the venture after working as a management consultant. Every year, he would have to endure the long process of evaluating employee satisfaction reviews. He said the process would take him months, though not much would come in the way of positive change despite all of the work he put in.

    Niu feels that for many companies - especially small startups - there is no substitute for feedback. Constructive criticism can greatly improve a company's outlook, help change poor methods of production and give employees a better grasp of what they are doing well or need to improve upon.

    Yet many employees around the nation feel unable to give honest feedback without being reprimanded or dealt a pink slip from their company. Niu believes a workplace that doesn't offer employees a place to vent lends to pent-up frustration and an unhappy office.

    A study released by Human Synergistics, an international organizational development firm, back Niu's claim. Human Synergistics revealed that 9 out of 10 employees work in a workplace with little emphasis on feedback, which triggers blame, indecision and conformity. The study included 900 major organizations and more than 130,000 employees, according to Positive Change Consultancy. But employees usually only hear about when they screw up. A year-long study by S. McCarthy followed 1,300 senior executives around the country. The report claimed that a work environment in which workers only hear from their boss after they mess up creates a passive workplace culture where employees avoid responsibility and pass blame.

    Niu's discovery
    Niu decided to interview 35 entrepreneurs from all over the world regarding the best methods for leadership and managing employees. He asked every person the same question: "What's one pain point you have around managing people that, if I took away, you'd gladly pay for?"

    The resounding answer was their company viewed employees and a positive working culture as important strategic advantages.

    "Regardless of industry, size or geography, the most haunting feeling for any leader is when an employee gives their two weeks notice out of the blue," Niu said, which can stem from a lack of feedback and give and take at the office.

    Thus Niu created TINYpuse, which emails employees one question each week. The question changes frequently and asks how happy the staff is at work.

    "I became inspired to give these leaders an ongoing pulse on how happy, frustrated and burnt-out their team is," Niu said. "By asking just one question each time, we keep the responses more focused so it's easier to identify trends and proposed action to spark positive change."

    Niu thinks every employee should have voice, and the weekly polls make people feel they have are being heard. When employees have a voice, they are more likely to feel engaged in the workplace.

    The cost of feedback
    A lack of mutual back and forth between management and staff can get extremely costly. According to Gallup, disengaged workers in the U.S. cost businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion in lost productivity per year.