Feedback is out. 'Feedforward' is in

Companies, executive coaches and HR professionals have identified the word "feedback" as anxiety-producing. The new term is "feedforward," The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 13. 

"The old assumptions of feedback, and all that word conjures up, I think puts a chill on performance," Joe Hirsch, a corporate speaker and author of a book on how to fix feedback, told the Journal. "Feedforward is about this forward-looking view of people, performance and potential."

Feedback isn't the only corporate jargon undergoing transformation. At AstraZeneca, yearly reviews have been traded for quarterly check-ins, with feedforward and performance development replacing feedback and performance management. At Microsoft, reviews have become "connect conversations," and managers share "perspectives" rather than feedback. 

"Feedback conversations, as they commonly exist today, activate a social-threat response in the brain interfering with the ability to think clearly, and raising heart rates," Theresa Adams, senior HR knowledge adviser at human-resources trade association SHRM, told the Journal

The catalyst? Generational shifts and COVID-19. During the pandemic, many companies paused review processes and loosened expectations on adjusting workers. Some bars haven't risen back to pre-pandemic levels, and they might never get there. As Gen Zers move into the workforce, they bring different expectations — including sensitivity to criticism after college classes shifted to online, "pass/fail" formats, and an openness around mental health struggles. Managers are moving to accommodate rather than reverting to old practices. 

Not everyone is a fan of the new language. Some believe workers need tough love to grow professionally, and others see the effort as an "empty rebranding exercise," according to the Journal.

Jennifer Solomon-Baum, a former Microsoft marketing director, said the company's decision to end anonymous peer feedback during reviews backfired. 

"We didn't get the richness of constructive criticism," Ms. Solomon-Baum told the Journal. "It became a praise festival."

Read more about how companies are revamping feedback here.


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