How To Handle Negative Feedback From Your Boss

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At some point in almost everyone’s career, a manager will provide constructive criticism about their performance.  It may come at a major milestone, like a work anniversary, or during a touch base, or immediately after a mistake on a project.  Too often, the first response to criticism is to try to ignore it and tune it out, but doing so only fails to address the actual issue that needs to be resolved.  Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen. And if your team needs training on how to give and receive feedback productively, reach out to us. We can help.

Don’t Take It Personally

Be calm, and don’t get emotional.  Remember that your manager’s feedback is a reflection of your performance at work, not as a parent, or a volunteer, or whatever else you may be outside of work. While criticism can be unpleasant, it’s important to note that without it, there would be no way to fix whatever the issue is.  It’s impossible to fix a weak point if you never know it exists.


Understand The Feedback

This may sound pretty obvious, but it isn’t uncommon for an employee to get too focused on trying to deflect or argue against negative feedback that they don’t actually pay attention to the point their manager is trying to make. For example, an account executive that isn’t closing enough deals may respond to criticism with “I don’t understand how you could say I’m not bringing in enough business when I’m the first one in and last one out every day.”  In this case, the account executive isn’t trying to understand and is too busy getting defensive.


Instead, focus in on what your manager is saying.  Ask how long the issue has been going on for, and ask for concrete examples of times that it has caused a problem.  Make sure you understand what the ramifications your actions are responsible for. Is it impacting your coworkers’ ability to get the job done?  Is the company losing money? Knowing the severity and how it affects the bigger picture will help the recipient understand why it should be fixed.


Get Aligned On Fixing It

After the problem is understood, the next step is to fix it. Spend time with your manager reviewing past scenarios where the issue occurred, and discuss how they should have been handled.  Come up with goals and checkpoints to hit that are both fair and agreed upon by you and your manager, such as “Employee will complete x number of tasks with fewer than y number of mistakes each day/week/month.”  Finally, determine how often you and your manager will check in to discuss your ongoing performance.


See Your Future

Take a moment to picture yourself at work after fixing the issue.  Think about how, after going through the necessary steps to correct the problem, your relationship with your manager will be better, not to mention your performance at work will be better as well.  While receiving criticism is never pleasant, figuring out how to fix it is one of the rare occasions at work when you have a clear path on how to improve and get better at your job.

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