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How to Have, Receive and Make the Most of Performance Reviews

How to Have, Receive and Make the Most of Performance Reviews

Some employees dread performance reviews; others leave them confused or wishing they got more from them. How can managers be considerate of the best way to deliver feedback? And how can they be more inclusive when giving evaluations? Debbie Goldstein, CEO of Triad Consulting Group, joins the podcast to discuss the changing nature of these conversations in a transforming workplace, common pitfalls managers encounter and how they can avoid them.

Camille Lloyd is the Director of the Gallup Center on Black Voices. Follow her at @policyresrchbuf.

Dr. Ella F. Washington is the CEO of Ellavate Solutions and a Professor of Practice at Georgetown McDonough School of Business. Follow her at @EllaFWashington.

Learn more about the Gallup Center on Black Voices at

Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.

Camille Lloyd 00:11
Welcome to Cultural Competence. I'm Camille Lloyd.

Ella Washington 00:15
And I'm Dr. Ella Washington.

Camille Lloyd 00:17
I'm so excited about our topic today. I feel like this is something that we all experience as employees, whether we are individual contributors or managers. Each of us have to have this experience, and these are experiences around performance reviews, performance evaluation. And I'm so excited because when we think about our life cycles as employees, these conversations can either bring us great joy or, for some of us, a lot of angst.

Ella Washington 00:48
I think they have always brought me angst. When I think back to performance conversations, you know, and when we think about feedback in general, whether they're annual performance conversations or just feedback more generally, it's really one of the most important parts of someone's career. And a lot of times, we focus on that evaluation part of it, but for the managers it's an opportunity to coach and develop their team members and hopefully strengthen their skills as leaders, right? So it should be a two-way street. And I think what's really interesting for our conversation today is the fact that all feedback is not given equally. Like many of the things that we talk about on our podcast, and there has been a plethora of research that show women and BIPOC employees often do not receive candid feedback.

Ella Washington 01:40
They're systematically less likely to receive specific feedback tied to outcomes, and they often receive praise on things like personality or doing office housework as opposed to connections to leadership and other things that are known to lead to development opportunities in organizations. And so because of, of this research that has been, you know, done over, over and over again, you know, we want to talk about, what do we do about that? How can leaders be more inclusive? Not just for their BIPOC and women employees, but for all employees. But what are the things they have to watch out for specifically when, you know, having these conversations with people who may not look like them? Camille, you know, what have been your experiences with giving and receiving feedback in organizations specifically as a Black woman, you know -- what are the things you've noticed?

Camille Lloyd 02:35
So, one of the things that as I look over my experience with this is really how I felt like, as an individual, I was unprepared to receive some of the feedback and not knowing what were some of those right questions to ask. I think of myself as a researcher, and when somebody's giving me feedback, and I was like, that doesn't seem objective … and the urge to, can I ask for some specific examples, right? I want to dissect, operationalize, whatever comment. And I always never felt like feedback that I was getting was kind of descriptive enough. It was either not recent, not timely or just wasn't specific.

Camille Lloyd 03:17
So that's kind of, some of the, I would say in a general sense, some of the personal experiences I've had. But I think particularly it took some introspection for me when I was thinking back around the types of reviews I've had and what ones that I would consider meaningful or effective. You, I would always get these reviews about being able to take on a difficult challenge and kind of that "fixer." And I feel like that is something that, I don't know if our listeners who are Black women, it wasn't until I was like having these conversations with my friends and my colleagues and that usually there was this pattern and like it was this badge of honor that I was wearing of being able to, you know, take on a difficult client or a difficult project and turning it around and fixing it. But one of the things that I was realizing that I was wearing this as a badge of honor, but what I was realizing when I hear other people talk about is that I didn't get those opportunities where there weren't problem situations or things that needed to be turned around and that it wasn't always all good in being known as that fixer or someone that could turn around because it may have been limiting my opportunities to get those, you know, new experiences or different experiences that might be more, you know, lucrative, so to speak, or better because you kind of have this reputation of being a fixer and wanting to say, is it because I'm, I wouldn't be able to manage and maintain something that isn't a problem to be fixed.

Camille Lloyd 04:50
So those are some of the things that I just kind of, adjectives and words that were describing my abilities were really kind of centered around these problem solving -- and while those are positives, I started to reflect to say, you know what, I really want to also get some other feedback or opportunities related to being able to, you know, either create something or to be able to maintain something that's going really well and take something from good to great. I'm a Maximizer No. 1, and so being able to kind of, you know, get those types of feedback, I realized it was really one-sided. I was a fixer, and was it bad? Was it good? I wasn't sure. And so it wasn't until starting to have some effective conversation around, you know, is there something why I'm only kind of given those opportunities to show those qualities and really feeling empowered to push back in some of those conversations and asking for evidence. So that's been some of my personal experiences. What about you?

Ella Washington 05:51
Yeah. You know when I look back over the best and the worst feedback conversations, I feel like that the worst ones were the ones that I just didn't know what we were talking about. It felt like a pat on the back, but I wasn't clear about what am I supposed to do with this information in order to not only get better as a professional, but also to, you know, achieve more in this organization. You know, I want to continue to grow and develop. And oftentimes, that wasn't clear. It was like everything is going great, but I'm like, well, it doesn't seem like everything's going great if there's not a clear path for development. I think some of my favorite conversations were those evidence-based conversations where the manager took the time to reflect not only on one instance that had happened, but things that have happened may be positive or opportunities for development throughout the year. So I was really clear on the areas that I needed to develop my skills and the, and it was also really clear on, you know, the areas that I was shining. And it wasn't just like, oh, you did a good job, but it was really specific, like you really connected with that client, you leaned into this strength, and we really want to see more of that in this role.

Ella Washington 07:01
And so I feel like I've had a mixed bag. I've definitely experienced the niceties, especially, you know, being a woman or being of a different ethnic background than my manager, more times than not. And so, you know, those are the reasons why I'm really excited to have our expert here to talk with us about performance management, inclusive feedback, what it should look like, what we should be avoiding. And I think our listeners will get a lot from our guest, Debbie Goldstein. Debbie Goldstein is a CEO and a partner of Triad Consulting Group. She teaches negotiation as a faculty member at Harvard Law School and Harvard Graduate School of Education. She's also taught at Tufts University School of Medicine and was an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Center of Law for many years. She coaches senior executives through difficult decision-making and managing critical relationships. She's helped mediate family business disputes, and in the public sector, she's founded and ran a free legal aid clinic called Legal Initiative for Children for the patients at Massachusetts General Hospital's Chelsea output. She is currently on the board of directors of WBUR and is a past board member of the Cambridge-Ellis School. She has been a featured guest on NPR, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe magazine, the Management of Information Exchange Journal and the Harvard Business Review. Debbie is a graduate of Williams College and Boston College Law School. Welcome, Debbie.

Debbie Goldstein 08:32
Oh, thank you for having me. I'm so excited to have this conversation with you both.

Ella Washington 08:37
So, in listening to kind of the thoughts that Camille and I had in, in our conversation, what are some of the things that really stick out to you as far as, you know, what do people need to know about feedback, just to start us off?

Debbie Goldstein 08:50
Oh, there's so much. There's so much. So, I think that there's, what's really missing fundamentally in the feedback system and the feedback conversations that I see are, are two things. One, I think we center the wrong person. I think we spend a lot of time coaching managers how to give better feedback. We do calibrations and nine-box grids and checkboxes and timelines and forms. And I think in all of that, we lose sight of the person who really matters, which is, who is the receiver -- the person who we are hoping to grow and develop. And, so, a lot of my work is to work with receivers to help them both get better very much to what you were talking about, Camille, to feel empowered to ask the questions, offer a different perspective, be a part and really take charge of the conversations because it's their career. They're the ones who are going to decide whether they're hearing the feedback. They're the ones who are going to decide whether they're going to try and take action and small experiments on the feedback.

Debbie Goldstein 10:04
And so, so a big piece, I think, is just centering the receiver, and I think we've kind of gotten that wrong. There's another piece that I think we also could do a little work on, which is, I think there is a trend that I both see and, to be totally honest, experience, which is the more senior we get in any organization. So now I'm talking to leaders. We are less good at seeking and we get less good candid feedback. So I think about that for myself, you know, now that I run a company and I have more seniority. I just don't get as much candid feedback, and I am very clear that it is not because people don't have it for me, right? They have it for me, they're talking about me, they're keeping their secret lists. And so I think the system needs to really push leaders to both be seeking and, and really working to metabolize more feedback because it, it also role models, right, what we want the organization and people in the organization to do. So those are two places where I see organizations get, get sort of -- they just miss a little bit.

Ella Washington 11:16
So one of the things we know is that about 29% of people are able to strongly agree that they feel like the feedback they received was, like, accurate and fair. And we know that, what, is it, 62% of the variability and ratings is due to bias? What are some of those things that as managers we need to be, you know, aware of when it comes to, you know, being aware of the fact that we're human beings and we have a tendency to act a certain way and not let that transfer over into the way we conduct performance evaluations of our staff?

Debbie Goldstein 11:56
100%. So there are, I think, the number, I think it ever grows. But I think at this moment there are 188 documented cognitive biases. And it is not, we are not capable each one of us, of holding all 188 in our heads at any given time. But I do think as managers, there are several that are particularly present in feedback and performance management processes and, and frankly can be really problematic and, and odious if we're not aware of them. And so some of them, in particular, are things like the affinity or "like me" bias, which shows that we just have a tendency to seek out, to mentor and to give feedback to people who are like us, who look like us, who have similar backgrounds, who went to the school we went to, who have similar ideologies, right? And so knowing that and knowing that that is our just natural propensity, we actually need to fight against that by making sure that we are equalizing the time and attention we give to each of our direct reports.

Debbie Goldstein 13:06
There are other biases, like recency bias. So you mentioned, you both mentioned the idea that oftentimes you're getting feedback that pertains to, at the end of the year, that pertains to just what happened in the last week or two. And, and that is really problematic -- and where it becomes particularly problematic is if we're not giving informal feedback throughout the year, which many managers, the mistake they make is they sort of save it up, which -- don't do that. Feedback at the, the sort of formal feedback processes, it should never be a surprise. It should always be that you are having the conversations throughout so that the performance management conversations are really just a culmination, a summary of what you've talked about. There's the horns and halos bias, which has a sort of, casts people as either they're amazing -- and so we see everything they do is in this amazing light, even though, of course, they make mistakes here and there -- or we have branded someone as not so great. And then we see everything that they do in the not-so-great light.

Debbie Goldstein 14:13
And what the research shows us, not surprisingly, but really in a heartbreaking way, is that folks with non-dominant identities tend to wear that horn more than others. It means that women and people of color have to, I'm not telling you anything you don't know, be twice as good, work twice as hard, be twice as amazing. And all of those are the result of manager, and just human, bias. So having awareness of them and making them discussable is so critical so that we can mitigate them. It's not like, oh, now that we've talked about them, we don't have them, but talking about them and making them discussable means that you can actually talk about them. You're open to having it pointed out to you. And I think that's really, really critical.

Ella Washington 15:02
So Debbie, you know, a lot of what you're talking about to me just sounds like good management, you know, what is the difference of this centered in a diversity equity and inclusion type of conversation? Or is this just good management practice which we should be doing anyway?

Debbie Goldstein 15:18
So, so yes, it I think it is just good management practice. But I think what's really, really important to not lose sight of is that there are very clear systemic disparities for people of color, for women, for folks who hold non-dominant identities. And so it's not enough to just say like, yeah, we should be doing this for everyone. Yes, we should be doing this for everyone, but we should pay particular attention to the fact that the system is set up so that we don't. So there was a really fascinating, I imagine you may have read it, but McKinsey & Company created a white paper in April 2021 that they called "the Black experience at work." And there was some really damning and just, we have to know them, statistics that came out of it. So in their research, the sample size was just under 25,000 people. So this was a huge sample size across all different industries, and many different organizations participated.

Debbie Goldstein 16:22
And one of the most important statistics that jumped out to me … it's really rich, but one of the most important ones was that 87% of companies have a sponsorship program, particularly for folks with non-dominant identities. But 33% of Black employees, only 33% of Black employees, reported having a sponsor. And only 23% of Black employees reported feeling like they had a lot, the quote was a lot of support to advance. So it's not enough to just sort of put the system in play and check that box and put it on your website and use it for your recruiting practices. You actually have to realize the real impact it has on the people in your organization. And, and so, yes, good management, but we have to pay attention to who, who has the status quo been serving and who hasn't it been serving? And so we need, we need to be paying special attention to folks with non-dominant identities for that reason.

Ella Washington 17:24
So as I'm, I'm hearing you and we're thinking about all the psychology and the cognitive biases, the statistics, you know, I'm imagining some of some of our listeners are like, well, I think I give good feedback. But you know, how does it actually show up? For example, if a manager happens to be a White male, for example, and he happens to be giving feedback to a Black female, for example, how might some of those biases show up? What are some examples of like, in real life, you know, how does it show up in our conversations?

Debbie Goldstein 17:57
Well, there's several ways. So first of all, if you're having the conversation, that's great because what we often see is that White men tend to shy away from offering feedback to folks with identities who are different from their own and not -- I want to be really clear -- this is not because anyone's a bad person. It's not because anyone is ill-intended. It's, it's frankly because of fear, for many folks. They worry and don't want to misstep or say something that would be offensive. But, the fact is, avoiding is a real problem and it tends to have really, really big consequences on those individuals' career paths, those who aren't getting the feedback. The second thing that can happen is that when folks do give the feedback because they're nervous about it, then they do commit stupid things like microaggressions, right? They, they're not actually really thoughtful. And so part of the work, and I say this as a White woman myself, so I have intersectional identities, right? I'm a White person, but I'm also a woman. But is, is we, those of us who hold dominant identities, have to do the work, right?

Debbie Goldstein 19:14
We've got to do some learning and listening and of course not ask our colleagues of color to do that work for us and educate us but do work so that we are thinking systemically, thinking individually and again, really centering the individuals. And one of the things that I think is really helpful and that we really help our clients do is to really know your people, not just, like, talk to them, you know, have a virtual, at this point, sort of happy hour with them, but really get to know them. And one way that we help people do that as we've created something called, we call it The Guide to Working With Me. And it basically asks each person to fill out between a five- and 10-question, kind of, questionnaire, which really asks people to reflect on their own personal feedback preferences, tendencies. And so it's questions like, if you have coaching for me, here's, here's the best way to give it to me so that I'll hear it. Or if I am triggered by something you said, here's how you'll know. Like for me, I get a tight jaw. If you can look at me, you will see a tight jaw, or I might make a joke to deflect.

Debbie Goldstein 20:33
Maybe my favorite question, actually, it's very tactical. It's what is your preferred modality? And so if I have to give you hard feedback and we're not going to be able to speak until tomorrow, do you want me to email it to you so that you can think about it, process it, cry in your pillow, think about how you might respond to it? Or, if I email it to you today, but we're not meeting until tomorrow, have I just robbed you a night's sleep -- and so you are resentful and hating me? By the time I see you tomorrow, you are not your best self. Like, as a manager, I need to know that about each and every one of my people. Because if I know them well, then, first of all, we're humans working together, so I'm less scared. And I'm better, better able to serve them, which is again the whole purpose of the feedback conversation, particularly as we think about inclusive feedback.

Camille Lloyd 21:36
One of the things that, that and this is, we have this thing on cultural competence where we say it's unpopular opinion. So the question I'm going to ask is in relation to that. Where there's so many tools, and you started off the discussion saying that a lot of this work has been centered around getting the manager equipped and prepared. And we have a standard set of questions that we ask everyone. And so there's absolutely, you know, so what potential bias could there be if I'm a manager and my employer has a standard set of questions that we administer to all employees. How can it be any more structured and objective than that? How do you, you know, kind of respond to, well, those systems that are in place and how that might impact people of color and women.

Debbie Goldstein 22:28
Yeah, I love it. So I actually think we do need to have systemic questions. And I know in my organization, we just went through an interview process, and we have learned that antiracist best practices, that you ask each of the candidates the same questions so that you're really comparing. What I would go -- I would take a step back though. I love that question, Camille, and think about are those the right questions? Are we asking the right questions so that we are seeing people in a fulsome way? And even if I'm asking the same questions and we've figured out that they are the right questions, do I know my people well enough, right? I think we, because of the affinity bias, we just tend to know certain ones of our direct reports because we give them more time. We have a coffee with them, right? Am I having coffee with some of my direct reports? Am I, am I just like, you know, slacking others? That's really problematic -- thinking of our own habits and behaviors.

Debbie Goldstein 23:28
So actually, one real, a couple of really critical ways to think about being fair and, and inclusive are to have processes that are consistent. So I have one client who does something they call "10-minute feedback." And what I love about this is like, when people think and hear the word feedback, the dread that I get from all managers and frankly direct reports is, oh my God, it's just so time-consuming. Like, you're asking me to take time. And I'm like, what if it were 10 minutes once a month, or 10 minutes once a quarter? If you can't give it once a month -- although once a month, 10 minutes, that are just simple, like, what worked? And it's two-way, it's not just me to you, manager to employee. It's two-way. What's one thing that's going well? And what's one thing that if I changed it, it would make a difference? Or what's one thing you see me doing or failing to do that's getting in my way, right? If we did that once a month and spent, and time-bound it to 10 minutes and I do it with all of my employees, that's a system that works.

Debbie Goldstein 24:36
The other thing I would just name is, I think that there is a term … I know that your podcast is called Cultural Competence, and I love it. There is a term "cultural fit" that we just have to eradicate because cultural fit is just another way to perpetuate White supremacy culture, right? Is another way of saying this is who we are, and it is your job, particularly folks with non-dominant identity, to assimilate to us. And so, as managers, that actually anytime I hear a client say, like, cultural fit, I'm like, OK, so let's start there. Let's remove that from your vocabulary, from your mind. Let's do some mind eraser. So that never ever, comes up. Because if we want to create inclusive cultures where there is a real spirit of belonging, it means that we are creating a culture where everyone belongs. And cultural fit does -- it's antithetical to a spirit of inclusivity and, and belonging.

Ella Washington 25:38
So as I put on my, my identity hats and I just think about all of the feedback I've received in all, you know, organizations that are predominantly White male, especially, you know, my past consulting career, but also in academia, there are a few things that you've set up that I'm like, you know, it doesn't quite feel right. So for example, one thing that you've said a few times, are, you know, managers have to get to know their employees --and I agree, right? But we know from research that, you know, a lot of times, people with those non-dominant identities, they don't feel comfortable sharing their whole selves. Like we want, I want people to feel comfortable bringing their whole selves, but until our organizations actually match that inclusive environment that they proclaim that they would like to have, you know, folks don't feel comfortable sharing their whole selves. So what do you say in those regards?

Ella Washington 26:29
And then, you know, the second thing that's related that comes to mind is the, the Williams and colleagues study from 2021 that was published in Harvard Business Review where they looked at the performance management data of a law firm. That's something that you're very familiar with. But what was interesting, they, they had a lot of really interesting studies there, but what was interesting is that they found that people of color and White women were far more likely to have their personality mentioned in their evaluations compared to White men. So things like, you know, they have a good attitude or they're friendly and they get along with other people. You know, 83% of Black men were praised for having a good attitude versus 46% of White men. And 27% of White women were praised for being friendly and warm versus 10% of White men. And while those personality attributes or, could be some of those things we're talking about, like get to know the employee, we also have seen that, you know, those attributes don't lead to promotion. And so how do we navigate this? Getting to know employees, but they may not feel comfortable -- and even if I do know them, is that going to lead to development? How do we unpack all of that?

Debbie Goldstein 27:43
Yeah, it is such a good question because I do think that what a lot of organizations do -- and I hear it, and if I'm being totally honest, I have probably done it -- is to say to people, speak up! Like, show up. Like, you're welcome here, you just, just raise your voice. If you see something, you know, say something. We, we want your voice here -- and that is flipped. What organizations and what leaders and what managers need to do is to create the conditions to create -- researcher and scholar Amy Edmondson at Harvard Business School has coined the phrase psychological safety, which I think it is, just, really in the vernacular now. Everyone's talking about it, and for good reason. Because it really flips that conversation to, it's not on -- the onus is not on people to show up and speak up. The onus is on the leaders to create culture where it is safe to show up as yourself, to be a fully present, fully human person who has lots of strengths and things they're working on. To push back, to ask questions, to offer a different opinion, etc.

Debbie Goldstein 28:55
So I, I hear you. I think that the work needs to be done in the leadership and managers -- not for people to, to, it's not for people to reveal themselves. And I, I love the Williams study that is in HBR. In fact, you introduced it to me, Dr. Washington. And I think that is just another manifestation of bias that shows up, right? We're, we're, we have fundamental attribution error bias, where we're looking for things that are particularly feminine like, like attitude or did they bring the cupcakes to, and did they plan the baby shower live or virtual versus what are the skills and competencies and project work that's going to get people promoted. And so again, for me that's part of, part of it, just awareness. I think in a way, that, I know that my clients who hold non-dominant identities, my friends who hold non-dominant identities, are like, hello, y'all are late to this party. Like, we have known this is a problem for years, for decades, for millennia.

Debbie Goldstein 30:13
But I think that organizations are, who tend to historically have been led and frankly still are led -- if we look at the statistics about who leads the Fortune 500 companies, right? We're still, only, I think it's 41 women out of 500. And for Black men out of 500. So, so our organizations are heralded and, and most prestigious companies tend to still be fairly White-dominated, and it's up to those organizations to just have awareness of these biases, not, not just for us each individually. Yes, for us each individually, but also for the systemic challenge that it creates. And I think that's where I hear a lot of people struggle. They'll be like, well, I know, I have a friend, and she makes a lot of money. I mean she, she's, she's a superstar here. She, she does really well. And I'm like, that is so amazing for her. Do you know how she had to work three times as hard? But what about the system? So I think having that awareness at a structural and systemic level and at the individual level is really important. I think sometimes people sort of lose sight of that.

Camille Lloyd 31:32
So, Debbie, when we think about just the way the workplace and the world of work is transforming, how do you predict what an evolved conversation looks like in this new world of work? We have hybrid, we have remote, we have in-person -- what does that look like? And I would love to hear your perspective from, as an, from employers and also from employees' standpoint on, what can you do in that empowered state to, you know, really have these conversations evolve as work transforms?

Debbie Goldstein 32:06
Yeah, I think particularly in cultures where we're not, most of us are not in the traditional five day a week, in an office, bumping into each other at the water cooler, it means we have to be more systematic. We have to have sort of regularly scheduled so that the onus isn't on the employee to have to ask, to feel like they're infringing on their manager's time. So that it's just baked into our systems, that we're having regular check-ins. And, and I am actually agnostic as to how often those check-ins are because I think every organization is different. The way that we work together is different. So, it's, perhaps it's weekly, perhaps it's monthly, perhaps its quarterly, but it has to be regular and scheduled.

Debbie Goldstein 32:58
And, and for those folks who struggle with it. Like, I coached someone last year who was very data-oriented, very quantitative, and he -- based on some work we did together -- was realizing his own, like, me bias and that he was tending to spend more time and then mentoring and then developing people who looked just like him. White men. And so what he did, which we sort of laughed about, but I really, I applauded it -- is he created a spreadsheet and he put every single one of the names of his direct reports -- and he had quite a few, which was maybe part of the problem -- direct reports on the top. And then he would record each touch that he had with people. And it became very clear to him, is that each, the rows that filled out more quickly for the first few weeks were those of his fellow White men. And then soon because he raised that awareness for himself, he, like, pushed himself that no, I need to fill in the rows of some of my women and some of the folks who on my team, who are people of color. And it really shifted, and it was the heightened awareness of his behavior. Because I will say this, I think on a day-to-day basis, we're all just so busy, right?

Debbie Goldstein 34:21
So much of this isn't mal-intention, but the omission has such a bad impact. And I think that for so many years, we have protected ourselves with our good intention. And one of the things that the multiple pandemics has really helped us to do is to shift that orientation in a way that I think is really important toward impact. Like, even if you are well-intended or just no-intended, you're just busy, right? What is the impact that you're having, and what is the impact that you need to have to create a workplace utopia -- to create truly inclusive workplaces?

Ella Washington 35:06
So, what advice would you give for your team members that are listening here? That they're, they're not managers, they're team members. And they don't feel comfortable with that two-way part of the conversation that you mentioned earlier. Like, how do we create that -- if my manager is not comfortable with talking to me, I'm probably not comfortable with talking to my manager either. So, what advice would you share for helping to create that two-way atmosphere?

Debbie Goldstein 35:31
Yeah, so I think a few things. I think, you know, one of the things that we know from research is that we, when we work in an organization, we don't work for X Corp. We don't, we don't work for the company, so much, many of us. We work for our direct manager. And so when we leave an organization, we're often not leaving ABC Corp; we are leaving our direct manager. And so one of the things that I think, whatever you call it, the Great Resignation, the Great Migration -- I think that many people are finding a space of choice and agency that maybe we didn't feel quite as much before. And in some ways, that's really hard on organizations, right? This idea that people are leaving. And in my mind, I'm like, oh, you know what, that's feedback to you. The fact that people are leaving is feedback to you about your system, about the way you operate. And if people are leaving, take that in as information for what you need to do better.

Debbie Goldstein 36:45
So, that was a little bit of a tangent, but just to say, first of all, I think that having a manager who doesn't see you and value you, I think there are efforts that you can make. I think you can make requests of them. So one of the critical things about sort of managing up is often how it's referred is, is to not say, you know, you don't give me enough feedback. But you know, I'm wondering -- one thing that really helps me, is if I get, you know, regularly scheduled, interval, quick check-ins. So I'm wondering if I might put 10 minutes on your calendar, you know, the first Monday of every month. How does that feel to you? Right? So framing it as a request and like a "why" -- because this would really help me be motivated and do good work.

Debbie Goldstein 37:33
The other thing is using HR departments, having friends at work. We all know that the research shows us that having a good friend at work who we can talk to candidly, who we can vent with, can be really helpful and, and I think, like, getting coaching from that friend. Not just a vent buddy but, like, "I really need to say something to my manager. I'm struggling to do it. Can you just play him or her, or them? And, and can I play it out with you?" can be really, really helpful. And so I, I encourage that. In some of the workshops I do, we do a practice piece of that - like, get with a partner. Give them a two-minute download on a situation you want to offer some feedback on and just, just play it out, push words out. And it's so powerful to just have that experience, to get another person's eyes and coaching on you. And so I, I encourage that. But if it's not working, I think having agency to the extent that that feels good and safe and comfortable in your own context is really important.

Ella Washington 38:41
I can personally attest to the power of role playing with a best friend at work. You know, just saying, hey, can I walk this through with you? How should I say this? I was wondering this with my manager; I'm not sure how they're going to react. So, I certainly have used that, and it's powerful. It gives you practice, right? It makes you more comfortable in that conversation and also just gives you more confidence in general.

Debbie Goldstein 39:04
Yeah, I mean, I don't, I don't know about you, but when I am at my most brilliant, to the extent I am ever brilliant, is on the elevator down, leaving the meeting or you know, the five minutes after I have left the Zoom. Or you know, the second we end this podcast, I'll think of all the really smart things I wish I had said. But the idea of practicing with someone means you kind of work out some of those kinks, that little bit of like, inarticulate, fumbling-over-words there so that, not that you're scripted, but you're just a little more practiced. Like, you're just a little more fluent so that when you're in the conversation that matters, you're, you're more fully present. So just a plus one on, on what you said. I love it.

Ella Washington 39:51
I love it. And you know, as we're thinking about big picture, you know, the work of diversity, equity and inclusion is so complex and nuanced and can feel hard and like an uphill battle, often. So one thing that we like to do here at Cultural Competence is think about, what does workplace utopia look like in the future? What is it that we're actually working toward in an ideal world? We know that no world is perfect. But we have things that we can change, right, and things that we are working toward. And so, Debbie, I ask you, you know, in, in terms of feedback and making it more inclusive for all team members, for all managers, at all levels, you know, what does workplace utopia look like in your eyes?

Debbie Goldstein 40:34
Oh, it looks like every single person -- I mean, I'm thinking about my own organization, but I'm thinking about my clients as well -- that every single person has ease, joy, a feeling of safety and comfort and belonging. And I know these are big words, but the sense that, like, who you are is awesome and valued. That the people you work with see you and get you and care for you, no matter what. I have a saying that I sometimes, when I'm interviewing, teaching fellows for the courses I teach at Harvard -- I have a saying that I may not always like every moment or every student, but I always love every one of them. And I think of that in a workplace too. And I'm very careful to say that work is not a family. So, it's not a family because different people have actually, really complicated relationships with family. So I want to be thoughtful about that. Also, you don't fire your family, although sometimes we do. So, so it's not, it's not creating work into family, but it is creating work to be a space where it feels joyful, full of meaning and that you are seen and valued in your humanness and, and that you have dignity in, in the work that you do.

Camille Lloyd 42:00
Well, thank you so much, Debbie. It's been a joy and a pleasure having this conversation with you. If you don't mind sharing for our listeners where they can find more of your work, but also any of your platforms or research that you'd like to share, just go ahead and let us know where they can kind of tap in and get more of this deep brilliance and insights.

Debbie Goldstein 42:26
Oh you're so kind. It's been so delightful. So, the organization that I run is called Triad Consulting Group. And we help organizations, big and small, all over the world. And is our website. And then I'm on LinkedIn. There are several Debbie Goldsteins -- but Debbie Goldstein, in Boston, with Harvard affiliation, usually brings me up. And I like to blurb once a week or so. Articles, thoughts, musings. And I'm doing a lot of thinking about having some good no's, not just good yes's, and how do we set boundaries when they say no, when that's the appropriate thing. And when yes is often the expected, easier path. So stay tuned. I'm doing some writing around that now.

Ella Washington 43:17
Excellent. Well, Debbie, thank you so much for your time today. It's been a joy, as Camille said, to have you on Cultural Competence. We look forward to having you back here again.

Debbie Goldstein 43:27
Oh, thank you. This has been so fun. Thank you both.

Camille Lloyd 43:32

That's our podcast. To subscribe to Cultural Competence from any podcast app, just search "Cultural Competence." You can learn more about the
Gallup Center on Black Voices by visiting Cultural Competence is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy. I'm Camille Lloyd.

Ella Washington 43:49
And I'm Dr. Ella Washington.

Camille Lloyd 43:51
Thanks for tuning in to Cultural Competence. A diversity and inclusion podcast.

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