Few of us look forward to a feedback appointment. Regardless of how solid we consider our work performance and efforts to be, the bottom-line is that we all have professional blind spots and absolutely no one is exempt from negative feedback.
We’ve all been there, but ouch! Usually, it comes with a sting, tempting us to lash out in ways that aren’t professional or more importantly, gyp us of the great opportunity for growth that it actually is.
As an HR strategist and leadership coach, growth — both personally and professionally — is one of the topics I’m most vested in. It seems in life that the moments we find ourselves in situations that nudge us beyond our comfort zones are really preludes to growth. Your performance review that didn’t go so great is no exception.
I’ve compiled a few tips to handle negative feedback based on common reactions and ultimate outcomes I’ve seen over the years as a manager and coach myself. In my experience, when taken in the right stride, with the right intentions, and with a conscious attitude, many people experience negative feedback as an awesome catalyst to stepping up their games.
Here’s what you should watch out for:
It’s no secret that not every manager is great at delivering feedback — be it positive or negative. As uncomfortable as you are receiving it, they’re very likely overwhelmed by the task of delivering it. Have understanding for this as you go into your appointment. Their tone might honestly seem in part ‘unprofessional’ — veering on too emotional or irritated.
It will absolutely be tempting to respond to this aspect of the conversation. But don’t! Never mind the delivery. Take a deep breath, bite your tongue, and listen carefully to what is being said — not how it’s being said. Even the most hot-headed manager will likely have valuable tips on where you can improve. Which brings me to my next point.
Take a Breather, and Then Ask for Clarification
One of the communication mistakes many of us make is that instead of listening properly, we’re prepping our response and waiting for the chance to interject. This is one scenario where you definitely don’t want to do this. For one, having an instant response will make you look defensive and unreceptive. Second, if you’re not listening properly, you’re not able to receive important information that could help you improve as a professional.
It’s likely that some of the issues brought up come as a surprise to you, so in case the feedback isn’t clear, ask for clarification. If you need a day to really consider and respond to the feedback, ask for this as well. Doing so with phrasing like, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I think this is important. I’d like to step back and really consider this. Would you mind if we got back to this meeting tomorrow?” is perfectly appropriate and demonstrates a willingness to take responsibility.
Really understanding where your manager is coming from is the first step to improving your performance. This is ultimately an opportunity presented to you, which brings me to my next tip.
Accept Feedback with Gratitude
Perception is so key in directing the outcome of situations. You ultimately have the choice to accept or reject the feedback. While you might not agree with every single point you hear, it’s very unlikely that none of it is ringing true. Ideally, we’re all on a continuous path to improvement and it’s really a gift when someone offers us an outsider perspective that highlights our blind spots. Go into your feedback appointment with this in mind.
Take these tips into account, and you’ll get through that appointment demonstrating true professionalism, maturity, and the ability to take responsibility. You’ll get the most out of the meeting, and have the right information to be able to plan actionable changes and goals to become a more competent professional.
Remember that ultimately, the growth you’re investing in is about you, not necessarily about pleasing a manager. So focus on mastering your skill set, not on seeking affirmation. Taking ownership of your own development will lead to a more fulfilling career, and that negative feedback experience was an excellent opportunity to get there.
About the Author
Nora Heer is the co-founder and Managing Director of Loopline Systems, a cloud software that helps managers adapt to effective leadership models. Nora has over 10 years of experience in building and leading high performing and fast growing organizations, both from a business as well as a Human Resource Management perspective. She is a certified leadership coach and an expert in the field of workplace digitalization.