For the last two months, the Leadership Program has been piloting a new training series on effective feedback. In this series we have sought to foster a frank dialogue about the challenges and benefits of giving and receiving feedback in Nuru. Through much discussion, we have gained insight into the risks and fears many people encounter when giving and receiving feedback in their community. In this month’s blog, a member of Nuru’s Kenyan Training Team, John Weisiko, explores some of the risks of giving feedback in Kenya.

Risks of Giving Feedback in Kenya
By John Maroa Weisiko

Feedback is very important information because it creates a path to progress by giving people opportunity to:

  • recognize mistakes
  • identify where he or she is doing a good job
  • explore how their actions can improve and affect other people

Although this information is good, it seems that in some places not everyone is benefiting from effective feedback. In poor countries like Kenya, the president, top officials, politicians, and head of departments are the ones who give feedback to their juniors. These “bosses” have made themselves like small gods and for any junior staff to survive in such institutions they must not oppose or object them, whether they are doing what is right or wrong.

This is because bosses have power of employing and firing someone who they feel has made mistakes, without further consultations from other staff members. This often leads to misuse of power by the bosses. For example, at times they authorize their juniors to do something, then when it goes wrong they shift blame to their juniors. This puts junior employees at great risk.

Furthermore, the junior person has no mandate of giving his boss negative feedback. Whether he is doing good or wrong, the only way one can give him feedback is by praising him.  It is the pleasure of the boss only to receive positive remarks and to ignore critiques on his actions.

Most bosses have not learned how to give and receive feedback to help their juniors grow.  When they are giving their juniors feedback, they start with the negative parts because they want to show their juniors that they are doing nothing of value. For most bosses and the people surrounding them, their work is to look for mistakes from their servants rather than telling their teams the areas where they are doing a good job.  They do not tell them where they need to improve so that they can perform their work more effectively.

Most of the bosses fear to be challenged, especially by their juniors, because they think of this as undermining their role. This negative reaction to feedback will result into repercussions like the following:

  • No promotion will be given to the junior, even if he or she is the best performer amongst all the staff members.  Instead, he/she will be demoted, hated, transferred to hardship areas, and given hard tasks.
  • The boss will begin to hunt the junior down, meaning that he will look for mistakes so that he or she can be penalized or dismissed from work.
  • Some juniors, especially those who work under top officials in the government, are taken to jail without trial, tortured, and some are abducted and later killed.

Risk is very high in corrupt places, especially in government office, police forces, and some security agencies.  The only way we can do away with such kind of incidences is to help people see the need for feedback and how it can help people to grow and change.

When this is achieved, people will be able to apply for employment and attend interviews. These interviews will help the organization to get the right people, rather than looking just for relatives and friends.  In this situation, the bosses may be challenged by their juniors at times when the juniors have more knowledge than the boss. A junior can assist his boss to help the boss see how the junior can improve in his work without being threatened. Over time, a panel will replace any one boss with too much power. Therefore, all people will have a protection to give feedback which creates opportunity for all to grow.