“Hey, do you have a time to talk in my office?”
No matter the context, this sentence can strike fear in the hearts of even the most confident top employee. No matter how well you do at your job, receiving negative feedback from your boss or coworker can be hard to swallow.
Throughout your life and career, you’ll always be given feedback in some form or another. Usually it will highlight both, what you do well and what you should improve on. It’s a key part of your professional growth and, when is given correctly and with good intentions, it can be extremely valuable for advancing your career.
Sometimes it can be extremely uncomfortable or even upsetting, because when it’s criticized, it can really sting your pride.
Regardless of the nature of the feedback, the way you receive and respond to it will go a long way in being seen as a professional, confident, competent (or not).
Here are some reactions to be sure to avoid, when you will receive negative feedback:
Don’t get defensive.
During a feedback conversation, you may start feeling somewhere between mildly to extremely defensive. This is a totally natural reaction, but it can come off as immature, so the advice is to try to control it as much as possible.
Try to avoid sentences like “it’s not fair” or “it always seems like,” and focus on saying “I” statements that show you take responsibility for your actions and their outcomes. For example, say you owed your boss or manager a final version of a report by noon. Claim responsibility for something, and consider how you can improve for the future (e.g., “I know the report was late, and I will make sure it doesn’t happen in the future”).
If the negative feedback is based on a specific mistake or misunderstanding, apologize once, and that’s it. Your apology should be concise and sincere, and should show that you understand the problem and that you will avoid it in the future. Your boss will appreciate this and she has no interest in telling you “it’s OK” five times during the meeting.
Don’t react on impulse.
Received a piece of really tough, or even truly unwarranted negative feedback? At this moment, your emotions are at their peak. So it’s essential that you take a deep breath and give yourself some space to absorb the comments and clear your head before to respond. If your boss give you the negative feedback, it may want to discuss, and it will be very respectfully if you say something like, “I really appreciate hearing your concerns. I would like to think about this and respond to you tomorrow.” Then, a walk outside is always a good idea, it will allow yourself some space to calm your mind.
Don’t miss the chance to clarify.
After you’ve had the opportunity to clear your head, go back and think about the main points your boss conveyed. Do they pretty much make sense, or is there anything that came totally out of left field? If so, can you go back and revisit the surprising feedback with your boss in the name of getting a better understanding of what you need to work on?
It’s never a bad idea to circle back with him or her after a few days or weeks and say something like, “Based on my evaluation, here are the three major points I understand I need to improve on, and here is what I understand that I do well and should continue to do. There is one point you mentioned that concerns me a bit, and here’s why.” The person giving you the feedback will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to analyze it and that you are crystal clear on the steps you should take to improve in the future.
Don’t dwell on it.
If the negative feedback caught you by surprise, there are higher chances that you’re going to feel bad about it. That’s totally normal. But you should allow yourself a period of time to work through the feelings and should commit to letting them go.
You may be tempting to text your closest co-worker saying, “I need a lot of wine,” but engaging in destructive behavior will get you nowhere. Listen to music, exercise, cuddling your god, whatever you need to do to feel better without leaving yourself worse off in the long run.