Netflix logo and a photo of beef together for article on workplace feedback
Published On: March 5, 2024Categories: OpinionTags: Last Updated: March 6, 2024

Honk if You Like Workplace Feedback – Lessons from “Beef”

By Jennifer Graham

If recent award shows are an indication, the series “Beef” on Netflix is resonating with audiences, and it got me thinking about workplace feedback. In the show, a simple exchange between two drivers turns into an increasingly violent “beef” that results in horrible consequences.

How Do You React To A “Honk”?

The story is this: one driver honks at another, resulting in a road rage “beef” that gets WAY out of hand. This got me thinking about the simple car honk that ignites the feud. A honk is intended to announce something. It could mean, “You can go ahead of me”, or “Careful… I’m right behind you,” or “The light turned green 10 seconds ago while you are looking at your phone, and there are five cars behind you hoping to catch the light.” These are all valid, helpful reasons to tap the horn, notifying the other driver or a situation they may not be aware of.

Unfortunately, too many drivers today don’t hear that well-intended message. Rather than a gentle, neighborly warning, they seem to take the honk as a personal attack. To these overly revved up folks, the simple beep from a fellow vehicle is a challenge to their driving skills, their masculinity or their right to exist.

This is a nice metaphor for feedback in the workplace. How do you react when someone “beeps” at you? When you are provided with reminders, tips or warnings that may point out that you have missed something, what is your reaction? Are you grateful that another person saw you were about to bump into something? Or are you defensive and angry? Do you, like the characters in Beef, allow another person’s input to cause you to seethe with resentment? Or, do you listen to and appreciate feedback that might genuinely be helpful, ignoring any that isn’t?

Obviously a loud sustained honk because you paused for half a second at a red light is not well-intended or helpful, just as snarky criticism from a colleague without a benefit to you is not well-intended or helpful. But, if you pause to evaluate a reminder or criticism and see that the intention is to prevent you from missing an appointment, or putting your foot in your mouth, or frustrating a client, then– as with a helpful honk– instead of getting angry, you might want to just give a nice wave and say thanks!

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