Handling Negative Feedback at Work Professionally

  | 8 min read

Dealing with negative feedback

Negative feedback at work is when your boss or manager lets you know that you have not met your targets or performed as planned. It typically involves failure to meet your targets or misconduct on your part. It should be within professional confines and should focus on your work an output as opposed to flimsy personal issues such as your eating habits. It should reflect solely on your work.

Negative feedback can be demoralising and most people do not like to hear that they have not met their targets within a set time frame. Even the most experienced career people do not like negative feedback, especially where one has worked really hard at something. However, negative feedback is part of life and how you take it can be a source of success in future.

Feedback of whatever kind is important as it helps you see what you are doing right or wrong and know how to improve. If your boss offers regular feedback, it shows that they are concerned about your progress and this is a good thing as it can help you to grow in your career. If you handle both negative and positive feedback well, you pave way for your success and improvement. Instead of denying the feedback, here is how to go about turning it to your advantage.

Stay calm and focus on the feedback

It is easy to get emotionally involved and lose objectivity. When you get negative feedback, try and get more information about the feedback. Instead of being defensive, pay attention to the feedback and understand what is being said. This is the only way for you to process it and then act on it.

Defensiveness blocks your ability to actually see the situation as it is and then an inability to actually ask for help. This means that, if for example, you are told that you have missed your target by 50%, you should try and find out specific elements that made you miss the mark.

If you do not understand the details about the feedback in the first place, you will not be able to turn it around. Find out the finer details, like what exactly you did wrong, specific actions that led to the current situation, and what steps you can take to improve.

When you know all the details, you are better placed to make the difference as you can come up with specific strategies and actions that will help you improve.

Additionally, when you dig for more information, you boss can also help you come up with ways of turning the situation around. This help can help you rise from the situation and get that positive feedback that you need in a future review.

Own the negative feedback

Accept that there is a shortcoming and something needs to be done about it. Resistance will not help you to make the necessary change.

Owning the feedback helps you to come up with specific action points that will help you move on from the situation.

Ask for help

Sometimes, you are sure you are on the right track. You have done everything according to the book and you can already see the success that lies ahead. Other times, you are not sure but you go ahead all the same. The outcome in both cases is, however, not so rosy and that is how you find yourself with negative feedback.

In such a case, you have no idea how to move ahead and when you get that negative feedback, do not be afraid to ask for help whether it is from your boss or colleagues. Everyone makes mistakes, even those at the top, but the difference is that you have to be willing to ask for help and learn from others. If you want to turn the negative feedback around, then you have to be ready to ask for help.

Find a mentor

In the same breath, mentors are often people who have been there and done that. They are people who can help you navigate through the rough terrain and offer you insightful guidance when you are in trouble.

Find a mentor, mostly from your company, who can help you overcome the challenges that are holding you back and you will be on your way to excellence. A good mentor holds your hand and can help you draw up a plan that will help you succeed, so do not be afraid to place yourself under someone’s wing.

Find clarity

Sometimes, you are not able to deliver because the goals were not clear to you. You probably understood things differently and you ended up pursuing totally different goals from the expectations.

If you feel like you do not deserve the negative feedback because the goals were not clear, use this opportunity to have your boss set the record straight. Ensure that you get to know exactly what is expected of you so that you can draw up a clear strategy. Do not just accept the situation as it is while in reality, you could have done things better had the goals been clear to you.

Additionally, you can use this chance to communicate anything that you feel may be holding back your ability to deliver. During the discussion, you may also realise that you have a different perspective from your boss. Remember, you are not a passive participant and this may be a great chance for you to have your issues resolved. For example, if your ability to reach your target is a lack of the necessary resources, you may use this opportunity to have your boss know that these resources are what is holding you back.

Additionally, a good manager will want to know what exactly could be holding you back. As such, be honest and objective as this discussion could play a crucial role in ensuring that you move forward successfully.

Do a SWOT analysis

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Negative feedback could be a great chance for you to look within and see what initiatives you can take to change the situation.

Analyse your strengths and see how you can use them to change the situation. For example, you may have great listening skills which can come in handy by taking the initiative to actively collect feedback and use this to try and change the situation.

The next step is to recognise your weaknesses and see what role they might have played in this situation. Your weaknesses are those things you may not be able to change but which you can find solutions to. Your weaknesses should not hold you back. for example, you may not be a good salesperson but your colleagues make the best sales pitches. In such a case, you can ask them for help and end up succeeding. Knowing your weakness helps you come up with ways to cope with them.

Opportunities are avenues that you can exploit in order to achieve your goals. These are also opportunities that lie ahead for you. For example, your ability to ask for help is an opportunity that you can exploit in order for you to succeed.

Threats denote those things that stand between you and your success. Having received negative feedback, you know what things have contributed to your current predicament and they are still part of your threats. For example, if you needed certain materials to be delivered to facilitate your job but this did not happen, such failures pose a threat to your success in future and you should ensure that you find a way of dealing with them.

Be easy on yourself

You may have done your best but it was not good enough. This is no reason for you to beat yourself up. Remember, everyone makes a mistake but the important thing is to learn from it.

Negative feedback is simply an opportunity to learn from the situation in terms of what you can do to improve yourself. Be open to criticism, but do not apportion unwarranted blame to yourself for every emerging problem.

Draw up a winning strategy

Finally, negative feedback should provoke a desire to improve yourself. Learn from the experience so that you can know what to work on and how you can change the situation.

At this point, it is important to seek the help of your manager so that you can come up with an actionable strategy that helps you to constantly keep an eye on the goal while focussing on actions that will eventually lead to improvement.

You should come up with a clear and achievable strategy that will help you to improve. This helps you as you might need to take very specific steps that are geared towards the goal at hand.

Negative feedback provides an opportunity for you to actually learn and take deliberate steps to improve.

In conclusion, do not let negative feedback at work hold you back. The important thing is to move forward by seeking help, being objective, trying to learn where the problem is and finally drawing up a plan that will help you to improve. Do not let it hold you down as you will end up not learning from the situation and failing to make the best out of it.

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