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Does a returned document of redlines without any feedback breed trust or skepticism?

Redline documents…sigh.

Redline documents are so often used as a vehicle of communication and feedback, and I feel very passionate about the missed opportunities for engagement via this vehicle. This post was recently on my LinkedIn feed, and I think it’s so important that I wanted to share it via the Impact Insider, as well.

For many, encountering a document returned with redlines is just another day at the office. It’s a norm—a quick way to communicate revisions without clogging the workflow. But here’s something vital to consider: in the long term, or where relationships are yet to be cemented, a redlined document, devoid of any feedback, can gradually elevate skepticism and erode the foundation of trust that teams strive to build.

Not providing feedback alongside redlines is a missed opportunity, especially when we talk about nurturing trust between colleagues. Why is this the case?

Human Aspect: Documents don’t exist in isolation; they’re the product of someone’s thoughts, effort, and time. A solely redlined return can seem dismissive of this human aspect, potentially leading the author to feel undervalued and overlooked.

Opportunity for Growth: Constructive feedback is a cornerstone of professional development. By skipping the chance to explain the reasoning behind changes or suggestions, we forfeit an opportunity to contribute to our colleagues’ growth and, by extension, the team’s evolution.

Communication & Understanding: Trust thrives in an environment of open communication. Clear, constructive feedback fosters a better understanding between colleagues, bridging the gap between expectation and execution. Without this, misunderstandings become more likely, and with them, skepticism can grow.

Collaboration: The essence of collaboration is working together toward a common goal, and trust is its lifeblood. A redlined document without feedback may create a barrier to this collaboration, implying a directive rather than a discussion.

Perception of Feedback: Feedback, in its ideal form, is viewed as a gift. However, a barrage of unexplained redlines can make it feel more like criticism, shifting the perception of feedback from being helpful to punitive.

So, where does this leave us?

Not all redlines are created equal, and not every instance requires an in-depth critique. However, in fostering a workplace culture where trust prevails, it’s crucial we don’t overlook the power of pairing those redlines with constructive, explanatory feedback. This approach not only enhances the document at hand but also fortifies the professional relationship between colleagues.

In other words, the next time you’re about to return a document with changes, consider adding a layer of commentary. It could be as simple as a few words explaining a particular edit or a general comment on areas of improvement. This gesture can transform the redline process from a potential skepticism inducer into a trust-building tool, cementing the foundations of a collaborative and resilient team.


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