How Negative Feedback Can Help Your Career

posted by Staff Writer in business

04-04-13



Negative feedback in the end may be the best thing to happen to your career.

Turning negatives into positives. Image: sangay.com

Most employees loathe negative feedback. Being told that you've failed to meet expectations or that you've done something wrong at work can be a serious blow to the ego-especially if you're used to the boss singing your praises. But criticism is an inevitable part of life in the office and you shouldn't try to avoid it. Why? Because, as it turns out, it could be your key to success.

"Receiving negative feedback is never easy, no matter what stage of your career you’re in," says Rebecca Thorman, a speaker, blogger, and careers writer at Kontrary.com. "It's natural to get defensive or upset." But the truth is, receiving negative feedback is an incredible opportunity to show your capability for learning and growth, she says. "An employee who is able to take negative feedback and act on it will likely be more valuable than an employee who never takes risks in the first place."

If your manager or colleague is sharing feedback, whether negative or positive, it"s a sign they care about the growth and trajectory of your career. The problem is, employees tend to forget this in the heat of the moment. "One of the biggest problems I see among employees, especially younger ones, is they take negative feedback as a personal attack," says Eve Tahmincioglu, a career blogger, director of communications at Families and Work Institute, and author of From the Sandbox to the Corner Office. "I'll admit, I've done this myself early in my career-but there's no way to get the most out of negative remarks that way."

Tina Nicolai, an executive career coach, says she's seen it all when it comes to reactions to negative feedback. "Anger, denial, blame, argumentative, to name a few," she says. "It depends a great deal on the levels of trust and communication with the supervisor; and the company culture also plays a hand in the way negative feedback is perceived." Some employees are amiable, she explains. "They respond to negative feedback with an acceptance of the information and may apologize immediately," she says. "They want to keep the peace and not rock the boat."

Others become argumentative immediately, bringing forward bottom-line results to substantiate his or her position. "This behavioral characteristic is not afraid to 'push back' and discuss in an open forum to prove his or her case," Nicolai says. "This person may see the negative feedback as a challenge and immediately start working on fixing the problem."

Many go into a state of denial or try to come up with methods to deflect the negative feedback, she adds. "Conversely, this person may also see this as a challenge and openly accept the information as he or she immediately is creating solutions on how to resolve the negative feedback for the future. This person may actually think the negative feedback is positive because it raises the bar to improve his or her performance levels."

Then there are those who react by asking a lot of questions. "He or she wants to gain as much insight as possible to better understand the basis of the negative feedback," Nicolai says. "This person will not have much emotion during or after receiving the information."

She says the very best way to take negative feedback is to ask a few basic questions to show that you are genuinely interested in resolving any perceived problems. "Try to stay calm and stay focused on the negative feedback."

Alexander Kjerulf, an international author and speaker on happiness at work, agrees. He says the best way to receive negative feedback is to listen and actually hear what’s being said. "Do not get defensive and start making excuses. Instead, you might say what you’ve learned and what you will do differently from now on."

Tahmincioglu says the key is distancing your emotional self and "taking the remarks as you would, say, a doctor’s advice that you eat less salt, or exercise more. Or even think of it as a voice in an annoying video game," she says. "You don't like it when it's telling you that you're screwing up but you listen to the voice and try to get further in the game."

Next, accept the negative feedback with openness and gratitude, Nicolai adds. "Even if you do not agree, you must keep in mind that feedback is intended to relay information. What you choose to do with it is your decision after the meeting. In the moment, it is advisable to say, 'thank you' and 'I appreciate you taking the time to bring this to my attention.'"

Finally, you'll want to turn this negative feedback into a positive learning opportunity.

Kjerulf says these steps only apply to constructive, well-meant criticism. "Unfair and overly negative feedback is also used as a tool by bad managers and workplace bullies to demean and control others," he says. "Do not put up with this kind of attack. If you do, it will persist."

Here are 8 tips for turning negative feedback into something positive:

1. Own it and hone it. Accept the feedback and make any necessary changes. "Make a list of the action items that were delivered by the boss," Nicolai says. "Jot down in a column the solution for each negative piece of feedback. This is your planning guide. Plan your work and work your plan." Throughout the process you should be able to sharpen your skills, gain more knowledge, and become an overall better employee.

2. Assume good intentions. Don"t automatically jump to the conclusion that the person criticizing you is "out to get you," Kjerulf says. "Also remember that they're criticizing your work, not you as a person. Never take negative feedback about your work as a criticism of you as a person." Once you’re able to do this, it should be much easier to make positive changes.

3. Use negative feedback as a chance to clarify expectations and goals around your position. "Be proactive about understanding your role," Thorman says. Maybe you didn"t completely understand what was expected of you before. Now you do, and can make improvements accordingly.

4. Treat negative feedback as an opportunity to bond with your manager, Thorman says. "Their job is to help you develop, while yours is to bring results. This is a prime opportunity to deepen your relationship." Schedule regular meetings to discuss your progress and goals; and try to get to know your boss and understand what he or she values most in an employee.

5. Use this as an opportunity to find a mentor or strengthen your relationships with co-workers. If you're in a situation where you need help or support-this is a great time to build those relationships.

6. Think of this as a time for self-reflection. Maybe your boss only mentioned one negative thing-but chances are, you’re not otherwise perfect. Use this opportunity to think about all the ways in which you can improve your behavior and attitude.

7. This is your chance to show that you're open to change and capable of growth. Negative feedback is a great opportunity to show your employer that you're mature, cooperative, and able to make necessary changes. Ask questions, but try not to question your manager's judgment; and show how willing you are to fix any problems.

8. Remember that all constructive feedback (even negative feedback) is a sign of interest and a sign that people want to help you do better, Kjerulf says. "It would be far worse for people to notice you doing bad work, and not say a word." If you're successful in accepting the feedback and recognizing what it's worth, you'll be a much better employee.




Source: forbes.com

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