Judging people, are you???


All of us work with people day in and day out. Not just at office where we interact with our colleagues, team mates, but also on the way to office (cab drivers, bus drivers, co passengers) and at home as well. And it therefore follows that any advice on how to be a better judge of people is always welcome, don’t you think!!!

This small, simple, yet insightful blog post [Link to HBR Blog Post] gives us 10 quick questions to ask to help us better understand people. I have provided a quick summary of the questions here which can also serve as a ready reckoner for people who are in the roles of conducting interviews to identify potential candidates for roles –

1- What is the talk-to-listen ratio? Ideally you want to interact with people who listen as much as they talk

2- Is the person an energy-giver or energy-taker? Self explanatory I think

3- Is the person likely to ‘act’ or ‘react’ to a given task? Once again, self explanatory, as this question determines the person’s ability to handle unforeseen, unfamiliar circumstances

4- Does this person feel authentic or obsequious? Although we all like our ‘posteriors’ kissed once in a while, we all know that only people who are true and themselves will work out in the long run

5- What’s the spouse like? Now this one question can easily get us arrested from an Indian perspective

6- How does this person treat someone he doesn’t know? The author espouses trying to find out how this person will treat a cab driver or a waiter to get insights about his true personality

7- Is there an element of struggle in the person’s history? This holds true if you are interviewing for people in the Senior Management levels as ability to handle tough situations is a must there

8- What has this person been reading? Once again, very apt for Senior Management positions as reading broadens the mind, thinking and ability to come up with creative solutions to issues

9- Would you ever want to go on a long ride with this person? This to me is probably the most important question for any person with whom you are looking to build a long, fulfilling relationship

10- Do you believe this person is self-aware? All great leaders and good followers are self-aware people who very clearly know what they can and cannot do, what they like and dislike, what works for them and what doesn’t

Insightful, don’t you think…

Image courtesy: Google image search for ‘judging people cartoon’

Anonymous Feedback Surveys – Are they truly effective?


In all the companies that I have worked for so far (one Management Consulting firm, two IT Service Provider firms and one Bank, all multinational companies with operations spanning all 5 continents), I have participated in Employee Satisfaction Surveys annually. And I have not just been a participant in these surveys, I have also led teams which participated in these surveys and have acted upon the findings of such surveys.

One question which bugged me about all these surveys was the fact that they were completely anonymous and this to a great extent, in my opinion took a lot of ‘context’ away from the survey itself. While broad inferences can be drawn from the data of such surveys (example, 85% of our employees feel confident in the Senior Leadership of the company), my question remains who are the remaining 15% of the employee population who are not as confident, what can be done about convincing them about the efficiency of the Senior Leadership. I just used this one question as an example, and am sure readers will get the drift of what I am saying.

In fact, one huge issue I have with anonymous surveys is more around the 45% of respondents, 35% of respondents type of questions. If 45% of my team (ie, people who named me as their supervisor in the survey) are unhappy with my performance, do I rest in peace knowing that around half of my team feels Ok with my performance or do I try and figure out how to keep the other half ready. Even if I choose to work on improving my performance, which half do I approach to find out what exactly their concerns are in terms of improving my performance.

While I understand the inherent need for anonymity in such 360 degree feedback surveys (fear of negative consequences, fear of unnecessary tensions between supervisors and subordinates), the same anonymity also renders such surveys useless when it comes to planning focused action-points to be taken.

Read this HBR Blog [Link to post] which talks about what anonymous feedback will (and more importantly won’t) tell us.

The author talks about how the lack of basic trust between supervisors and subordinates is what forces such feedback to be anonymous and that in my opinion is probably a bigger issue than anything else in the feedback survey questionnaire. If there is no trust in this relationship, then in my opinion, the building blocks of any organization are quite shaky and this needs to be addressed first before anything else. While I understand that not all supervisors are confident enough of their abilities to overcome shortcomings, and that not all subordinates are confident enough about themselves to criticize their supervisor’s working style and decisions, the fact remains that if an organization truly wants to be transparent in all its internal dealings, the only way forward would be to remove this ‘anonymity’ condition in feedback surveys.

At the bare minimum, they should at least have additional ‘non-anonymous’ surveys to solicit feedback about the true problematic areas for the company. This is probably the only way to direct focused action on the problem areas and address them decisively.

I would really love to hear out your thoughts and comments on this particular topic.

Image courtesy : Google images search for ‘dilbert feedback cartoon’