How to Turn Negative Feedback into a Positive Step – Part One

It can be hard to recover from a less than glowing performance review, especially one that you did not see coming. You might feel angry, embarrassed, and confused. How do you regain your professional confidence? And how do you turn negative feedback into something that will propel you to make positive changes? 

Throughout your career, whatever field you work in, you will always be given feedback in some form or another, and it will likely highlight both what you do well and what you should improve on. It is a key part of professional growth and, when given correctly, and with good intentions, it can be extremely valuable for advancing your career. That is not to say, though, that it cannot be extremely uncomfortable or even upsetting. More than likely, you have put your all into your chosen career, and you rightly take pride in your work, so when it is criticised, it can really sting your pride.

The old saying “It’s not how you fall down; it’s how you get up” is never more pertinent than there. Regardless of the nature of the feedback, the way you receive and respond to it will go a long way in you being seen as a confident, competent, professional (or not). As you work to appraise the feedback you have been given and implement it moving forward, here are some reactions to be sure to avoid if you want to dig yourself out and emerge with strength and poise.

 Getting negative feedback at work can be tough

First of all, take stock of the feedback before reacting. It is tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you are accustomed to positive reviews. But it is important to hold your emotions in check. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by lashing out or putting down the system or the person delivering the review. The person giving you the feedback may want to discuss it then and there, but you are usually better off respectfully saying something like, “I appreciate hearing your concerns. I’d like to take some time to collect my thoughts so that I can better respond to what I’ve heard.” Then, remove yourself physically from the space – a walk outside is always a good idea – to allow yourself some space to calm your mind. Take a few hours, or even days to let the feedback sink in. If it helps, find a friend to explore your frustrations, but do it outside of the office.

Next, do not automatically jump to the conclusion that the person criticising you is out to get you. Remember that they are criticising your work, not you as an individual. Never take negative feedback about your work as a criticism of you as a person. Once you are able to do this, it should be much easier to make positive changes.

It can be hard to accept negative feedback, but sometimes you have to be self-critical in order to grow. A bit of self-realisation to your shortcomings may result in you emerging stronger and more effective than ever. It is possible that you may not even recognise yourself in the feedback. This is because, despite our best intentions, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and the way that others actually see us. Occasionally, we need other people to help us see ourselves. Although it can be comforting to lean on a sympathetic friend, try to seek out those who will be honest with you instead of telling you what you want to hear, and that the input simply cannot be true. Think about talking to friends who can help you learn from the feedback, rather than simply reinforcing your self-perception. Ask yourself “What might be right about this criticism? Have I heard it before?” Perhaps your tone comes across as more exasperated than you intend, or colleagues feel you shoot down ideas too quickly even though you believe that you keep an open mind. If after some self-reflection, you still do not understand the roots of the critiques, reach out to colleagues for additional feedback, again making it clear you are interested in honesty, not consolation.

In our next blog, we will explore more ways to turn negative feedback into positive outcomes. 

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How to Turn Negative Feedback into a Positive Step – Part Two