Monday, April 21, 2008

Avoiding the feedback loop

Today I received the fourth request to fill out a campus survey in four days. I have completed two of them because they were very brief, well designed, and relevant to topics of great concern to my working life, but I have thus far avoided responding to the other two. For the benefit of those vast hordes of students, faculty members, and administrators interested in receiving my valuable feedback on various topics, here's some advice:

Don't demand. Ask, request, cajole, wheedle, but don't demand.

Especially don't suddenly pop up in my inbox or in my office and demand that I drop everything and respond to your survey right now. If I tell you I'm busy right now, don't imply that your survey is more important than anything else I might be doing, and don't whine about your deadlines. I have deadlines too, and I'm not going to meet them if I drop everything to help you meet yours.

Pay attention to the wording of questions. If I can't figure out the question, I'm unlikely to come up with a meaningful answer.

Offer me several different ways to respond. Numbered scales are fine, but some questions resist quantification. Text box, anyone?

Explain why you need my expertise on this topic. If you're just looking for warm bodies to fill a quota, go ask some of those people chatting loudly on cell phones in the middle of the hallway and let me get back to work.

If this information has been helpful to you, I would value your feedback...not.

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