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I'm currently working at a university in the student administration and I was offered an opportunity for a short-term casual contract as a graduation assistant.

There was very limited training and there were roughly 8 different roles which I was expected to pick up quickly, which I managed. It was intensive but short, and about a month after it all finished I received a canned email with some feedback which said:

“Your supervisors have noted that you were helpful and performed well in your assigned roles. To help you with your professional development, an area you may want to concentrate on during the next session is your customer service. For example being more engaging and welcoming to students and your peers.”

I didn't think this was an appropriate way to give feedback to staff as I believe it’s a professional courtesy to give feedback (especially negative feedback) in person, so I replied back requesting constructive feedback to be in person.

The staff member must have forwarded this on to HR, who then contacted me and asked me to have a meeting with them and the graduations manager.

*Was this the professional thing for me to do?

Does the fact that HR wants to be involved mean that I may have crossed a line?

What would be the best way to respond?

  • What was the wording that you used when you told them that their feedback was inappropriate? – さりげない告白 Jun 21 '18 at 0:41
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    This is what I sent: While I appreciate feedback in general, I don’t think this is an effective or appropriate way to provide it. Those comments were too broad and general in nature to be useful for my development, all that they did do was discourage me. If there is constructive feedback regarding my performance I encourage you or whomever concerned to discuss them with me in person. – Brendan.H Jun 21 '18 at 1:36
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    "If there is constructive feedback regarding my performance I encourage you or whomever concerned to discuss them with me in person." and you've been contacted and invited to discuss this in person... what's the problem? – HorusKol Jun 21 '18 at 1:52
  • The person forwarded on my email on to HR who are organising and attending the meeting, I haven’t had a good experience with HR in the past and this feels more like an ambush than a development session. Is that paranoid? By in the past I mean other companies. – Brendan.H Jun 21 '18 at 3:16
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    "Does the fact that HR wants to be involved mean that I may have crossed a line?" You essentially told them how to do their job. – pmf Jun 25 '18 at 10:16
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Was this the professional thing to do? Or should I watch out?

Perhaps not. You don't want to get in trouble or offend HR, or anyone in general, and replying back saying that you dislike they giving feedback surely won't be taken too gladly.

I guess that what would have been right to do was to take/throw the feedback, don't reply, and move on.

I suggest you don't dismiss the feedback to quickly, as you could improve your performance by considering it. If they bothered in giving you feedback (compared to just firing you or not telling) it's because they have reasons, and ignoring such comments would be unwise.

which to me insinuates that I wasn't engaging or welcoming.

It doesn't suggest that. It suggests that you could be more engaging and welcoming, meaning that you are those things but could serve a little extra smile now and then :)

  • I’m sure I could be more engaging and welcoming, there are lots of things I or anyone could do more. My issue is that it’s almost completely meaningless without some sort of context. What is the point of giving such feedback? I told HR this and they said they would ask for specific feedback, so far I haven’t heard back from them. – Brendan.H Jun 24 '18 at 22:05
  • @Brendan.H i think you need to rethink your style of collaboration. I know you won't like this, but you're not in WW3 and not everyone is out to get you, Take the advice, change your style accordingly and move on. Nobody is right all the time, you're wrong this time. – bharal Jun 24 '18 at 22:34
  • @bharal wrong about what exactly? Replying to the feedback? How would you have responded please? – Brendan.H Jun 25 '18 at 4:32
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    @Brendan.H I would have thanked them for their feedback, and asked if I could have a meeting so I could learn further what to rectify. And then I would have gone to that meeting, humbly and with every intent to learn, and gotten feedback. Look, they don't want to fight with you, and they didn't need to tell you that you need to work on your interpersonal skills. They could have just let you flounder on your own. They have done you a favour, and you've responded by, sadly, telling them you don't want the feedback. Don't tell me you didn't say that - that's exactly how it will be read. – bharal Jun 25 '18 at 5:32

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