- All feedback should be ignored.
- Negative feedback is jealousy in disguise.
- The value of the feedback depends on who is giving it.
- Feedback is an opportunity for growth.
If you agreed with the first two statements, you’re coming from a fixed mindset. If you agreed with the second two statements, you’re approaching feedback with a growth mindset.
We’ve all had occasions when we’ve received negative or challenging feedback. Perhaps from your manager at your appraisal or performance review. A client during or at the end of a project. A team member or a peer.
Fixed or growth mindset
Negative feedback can be painful or upsetting. You might feel angry, insulted or undervalued. If you simply ignore and reject all feedback because you believe that you can’t change or learn, that’s an indicator of a fixed mindset. Whereas a growth mindset believes that you can always learn and grow. Therefore it is worth listening to feedback. (But that doesn’t mean that you have to accept it).
Today I’m sharing my top tips on how to deal with negative feedback based on my 20 years’ of leadership experience and multiple performance reviews.
How to handle negative feedback positively
When you receive negative feedback, there are three key steps:
- Move forward
Not all feedback is equal – just because somebody has given you feedback, it does not mean that the feedback is valid. The first step is to listen to the feedback that you receive. Decide whether the feedback is helpful. Finally determine how you will move forward.
Listen to the feedback
Feedback tends to be seen as a negative because often we receive feedback in an emotional state i.e. the person giving the feedback is angry or unhappy.
Ignoring the person’s feedback may make the situation even worse.
It is important to listen to feedback because, no matter the mode of delivery, there may well be nuggets of useful ideas or suggestions on how you can improve your performance.
Angry feedback can be as a result of miscommunication, differences in expectations, or a change in scope. The situation may even be outside of your control.
Listen first and then take time to respond after reflection. If the feedback is received by email and it provokes an emotional response in you, take 24 hours before you respond. If the feedback is from your boss in a one-to-one meeting, where possible, buy yourself time “Let me look into this” before jumping right in with an angry or wounded response.
Decide whether the feedback has value
You can decide to accept or reject the feedback depending on whether the person providing the feedback has:
- relevant knowledge and understanding
- recent experience
- appropriate perspective
- valid evidence
Many years ago, when I worked at Arthur Andersen, my manager told me in my annual appraisal “You are not good at juggling more than one project at a time”. Instinctively it felt unfair. I didn’t want to let the comment pass because my opportunities might then be limited.
I reflected for a few moments before I responded “That’s interesting feedback. I’m not sure that it’s fair because I don’t recall any times in the past 12 months when I have been expected to manage more than one project at a time”.
Her response “Yes, you’re right. That’s a tad unfair. Let’s create the opportunity for you to demonstrate this over the next few months”.
Before you determine how to move forward with the feedback, you can ask yourself these three questions:
- What’s the truth?
- What can I learn?
- What can I do differently?
Sometimes it can be difficult to receive difficult feedback in a positive light. Explore the feedback from the other person’s perspective. What are you doing or not doing that might affect their perspective? What are you saying or not saying? Could your body language be more confident? Could you speak up differently in meetings? What can you change in the way that you communicate?
Don’t forget to explore the truth in the positive feedback that you receive. Sometimes we put more energy and attention on negative feedback and the positive is just as important.
If you feel your confidence or self-esteem is taking a knock, it is important to take steps to boost your self-esteem. I loved these 5 ideas presented in ideas.ted.com, especially no 5 about affirming your true worth.
Determine how you will move forward with the feedback and consider sharing that with the person who provided the feedback in the first place.
The bottom line is that not all feedback is equal. The growth mindset knows that you can learn and grow from negative feedback in your performance review when you listen, decide whether it has merit and then determine the way forward. Taking this positive approach to negative feedback this will boost your confidence in the workplace.
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