“Recently, my boss shared with me some difficult feedback, and it has really thrown me off my game. I feel like I work really hard and am overall doing a pretty good job, and she’s not acknowledging that. How can I deal with this? “
It can be hard to hear that your performance has been less than stellar, but with the right mindset, this can be an opportunity rather than a roadblock. There are a few key steps I suggest to help navigate through negative feedback, and come out the other side with a positive outcome.
- Recognize it’s normal to feel defensive. Difficult feedback is especially hard to take when you feel like you are working really hard. The natural first response is to think your efforts aren’t being valued. That said, just because this is the normal human response doesn’t mean it’s the most effective one.
- Before you process the feedback, take time to process your feelings. I often encourage clients who are disappointed or frustrated by difficult feedback to give 24 hours before trying to process this information. And be sure to do something fun in those 24 hours — whether it is treating yourself to a good workout, a favourite dinner, or even just curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. The important thing is to consciously decide to take your mind off of the feedback for a bit and get yourself back into a higher state of mind. Once you’ve had time to focus on something else, it is easier to get genuinely curious about the feedback.
- Play a game of “They are right!” As you decide it’s time to reflect on the feedback, do a “they are right” exercise and see if you can validate their point of view by noticing three to five things you do that endorse the feedback. You don’t need to beat up on yourself — you are just looking to process where this feedback might be helping you see a blind spot.
- Consider the upside of difficult feedback. Getting candid feedback and using it to grow can be an absolute game changer. Each person you work with will have varying points of view around where you need to improve. You don’t need to please everyone all of the time, but if you can gain awareness and try new approaches as a result of feedback, it will likely help you grow as a professional.
- Book a 90-Day Check in. Nothing is more impressive to a leader than a team member who takes difficult feedback and grows from it. Leaders want people who are coachable and they will naturally support people they see excelling. So, if you want to demonstrate your ability to be coachable, set a reminder to book a follow-up call with your boss after you’ve had 90 days to take in your feedback and practice new approaches. Ask to check in with her to share what actions you’ve taken, see if she’s noticed the improvements you’ve made — and ask for more feedback.