July 9

How to respond when you get feedback that you don’t want to hear


To begin, it’s important to be resilient and to remember that your career is a long-term project rather than a short-term fix. In the life cycle of a career, you will see great progress, but there will always be setbacks that are encountered along the way.

Very few people can claim to have total linear progression in their career. There will be some lateral moves, and maybe, a period of stagnation. The focus should be on the long term progress and outcomes. As long as you are progressing towards your longer-term goals, you are moving in the right direction.

So, how do you respond if you get feedback that you don’t want to hear? If you haven’t had this experience yet in your career you are one of the lucky few. How you respond to constructive, or what you might perceive as negative feedback, is so important.

Here are some tips to help you deal with this feedback:

Don’t assume bad intent

If we immediately assume ill or bad intent it cuts us off from hearing the information being delivered. Start from a place of assumed positive or neutral intent. Often a manager providing critical feedback is doing so because they are invested in your success and are providing feedback to help you improve and grow.

Ask questions

This is critical, especially if this is;
The first time you are hearing this information.
You are not in agreement with the feedback.
You need examples to be able to process the details.

Remember, you cannot come up with an effective argument (assuming you disagree with the feedback) if you don’t understand where the feedback is coming from. In addition, if the feedback is valid you will need as much information as possible to ensure you can improve in this area.

Asking questions also signals that you are listening to the information being provided, are open to receiving feedback, and are willing to improve and grow in areas that need improvement.

Don’t disagree to the point of not being willing to do any further work
Remember, perception is so important in the workplace. Whilst you might not agree with the feedback, if it is the perception of the people who make decisions about your performance, promotions and salary, it is key to hear their message. What you decide to do with it is up to you.

Stay Calm

This can take practise and patience but is critical to a productive conversation. If you need to take a pause to process the information you have received it is perfectly acceptable to do so.

Tell your manager that as this is new information you are receiving and that you would like some time to process and understand. I would recommend asking them to arrange a follow-up discussion at a future date.

Make the argument

There will be times when you will hear feedback you don’t want to hear but it does not make it incorrect. At some point in our career, we all get feedback that is hard to hear.

Be professional about processing whether the feedback you have received is accurate or not. If the feedback is accurate, you should acknowledge that you have heard the feedback, are disappointed that your actions have been perceived in this manner, and will make the necessary changes to improve. It’s time to own up to mistakes.

However, if you truly believe the feedback is unjust it is time to prepare and make your argument as to why you feel the feedback is unfair. We often believe that it is so obvious why this feedback is not inline with your performance that you shouldn’t have to defend yourself. However, this is time to use factual information to counter the feedback. Prepare well and ensure you stay calm and measured while delivering your argument.


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