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How to Handle Negative Feedback At Work

How to Handle Negative Feedback at Work

How to Handle Negative Feedback at Work

There are seven steps to handling negative feedback at work:

  1. Listen without interruption.
  2. Question down to get specifics.
  3. When you fully understand the criticism, ask yourself honestly, is the criticism true, partially true or false?
  4. If the criticism is false, then defend your position.
  5. If the criticism is true, or partially true, formulate an adaptive response.
  6. Either way, always learn from negative feedback.
  7. Build on your past performance.

Nobody is perfect.

We all make mistakes and omissions. Consequently, we all need to hear occasional negative feedback, in the form of criticism of our recent performance.

Nobody likes to hear such criticism and many people stubbornly resist it, claiming that, "Nobody has the right to criticise me!"

But progressive people are more open to working with critical feedback, because they understand that progress is made by eliminating errors, and we cannot eliminate what we won't acknowledge.

If we intelligently use negative feedback, then we can benefit from it. Here are the steps.

1. Listen without interruption.

When being criticised, the instinctive urge is to argue and fight back.

Control your primitive urges, instead simply LISTEN to the criticism without interruption, and if possible, take written notes.

2. Question down to get specific facts.

Criticism often comes worded in emotive, subjective language, such as "inappropriate", or "attitude problem". Whenever you hear this vague and emotive language, question it to get the objective facts, which will fall into four categories:

What was said, or not said; What was done or not done.

You need to identify the "behavioural facts", not their "subjective opinions".

3. When you fully understand the criticism, ask yourself honestly if the criticism is true, partially true or false.

The criticism of your behaviour will either be true, partially true or false, and you must be completely HONEST with yourself. If you have made an error, then admit it, at least to yourself. If you honestly believe that the criticism is NOT true, then take the next step...

4. If the criticism is false, then defend your position.

If the accusation itself is unjustified, then do not accept it and correct the record by stating the facts.

5. If the criticism is true, or partially true, formulate an adaptive response.

If the criticism of you is true, or partially true, then you must accept the criticism as valid and make the necessary adjustments to your speech, or behaviour to bring yourself back into alignment with what is "Reasonable".

It is here that we gain the benefit of critical feedback. We use it to make adaptive changes to our current modes of thinking, speaking or acting, which brings us closer and closer to reason.

Our aim is that everything we do and say, can be demonstrated to be reasonable.

6. Either way, always learn from negative feedback.

Taking negative feedback and using it to improve performance is the sign of a mature personality. Nobody likes criticism, but all need to hear it.

Wise people profit from it.

7. Build on past performance.

Life is an evolution, which is the process of progressive change by means of small modifications in response to failure. People who don't, or won't modify their approach based upon negative feedback, do not evolve and do not progress.

Those who use negative feedback to build their performance, make more progress in less time.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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