Everybody Has ‘Those’ Days: How To Accept Negative Feedback At Work

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No matter how well you intend to perform, negative feedback is something everyone faces at work. Receiving negative feedback is as natural a part of your professional life as receiving positive feedback, a salary appreciation, or a promotion. But at the same time ﹘ however natural it might be ﹘  everyone wants to avoid it at all costs. We all dread those surprise calls from our seniors and those “we need to talk” emails from our bosses! While you cannot really do away with negative feedback at work because you are bound to make mistakes (how else will we learn), there are a few ways in which you can make a sweet-ish lemonade out of those sour lemons.

Firstly, let’s do something about that choice of words, shall we? 

Negative feedback. 

Too negative, eh? Let’s address this monster with a better name to tame our anxious minds

How about calling it constructive criticism? Or performance review? How about critical feedback? Or, just good ol’ feedback?

If we simply drop the negative connotation attached to the term negative feedback, we will be able to look at it more rationally and employ the suggestions in a better manner. 

Negative feedback is a result of mistakes. Mistakes are a result of trying. And trying is good!! But ‘trying’ cannot be our permanent address. We need to be able to learn from our mistakes, and be better once we know better. 

What did Maya Angelou say about this? “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

To turn this powerful, life-changing quote into a life practice, here’s how you can start acknowledging and accepting  negative feedback and navigating through it gracefully to make the best out of it. 

5 Ways To Accept Negative Feedback At Work

Understand That The Feedback Is Not A Personal Attack 

Good negative feedback is about your performance, your actions, and your behaviour. It has absolutely nothing to do with who you are as a person. While harsh criticism can be difficult to deal with, one must remember  that it is not a comment on you. More often than not, negative feedback comes from a place of good intentions. If you share a good rapport with the person who is giving you the feedback, especially, believe that they have good intentions and want to help you do better! 

Ask Clarifying And Follow-Up Questions

The best way to understand where you went wrong and what was expected of you is to break down the information you are receiving down into smaller morsels. Tackle the feedback in smaller chunks to take away its overwhelming power! 

Clarifying questions will ensure two things: 

  1. You will have more clarity on how to rework your task 
  2. The person giving feedback will know that you are making a genuine effort to rectify the error and will help you further in the process. 

Believe it or not, giving negative feedback is almost as uncomfortable as taking it. Your interest in your growth makes it easier for both parties to tackle the issues at hand more compassionately. 

 Process Your Emotions

Receiving criticism can be an overwhelming experience. And even if you’re known for being cool tempered, it is a valid possibility that you might lose your calm. Take a deep breath. Remain calm. Keep your feelings in check. Feedback can incite feelings of anger or defensiveness. But as long as your critic gives you feedback in a gracious manner, the same respect must be reciprocated.

Be Heard And Ask For Help If Needed 

A feedback session should not be a monologue. So, make sure that you and your side of the story are heard. If there is a valid reason behind your mistakes, let your critic know. Chances are that they will understand your position better and this will make the conversation more productive and kind. No one can always know what the other might be going through, and if something has been affecting your performance, your critic must know the same. They can either help you do better or find a solution to the issue. 

Take Initiative At The Earliest 

Once the feedback is delivered and you have taken your time in accepting  and processing it, make a plan. If you do not act on your feedback, the entire process is rendered vain. Take all that you feel will add value to your work and proceed.

Growth is made of learning and lessons. Growth is made of grace. Detach yourself from the experience of receiving negative feedback, understand what needs to be done better to be better, and do it. 

The thing about feedback is that it is what you make it to be. Yes, you are allowed to be hurt when it is negative just as you are allowed to be happy when it’s positive. But either way, it does not take away from the fact that it is meant to take you ahead in life professionally and also sometimes personally.

Feedback, though not a very tidily wrapped gift, is a gift nonetheless. Accept it. Thank your critic. It is not an anchor. As long as it is not coming from a place of personal, harmful motives, it is only meant to push you towards betterment. 

You’re invited! Join the Kool Kanya women-only career Community where you can network, ask questions, share your opinions, collaborate on projects, and discover new opportunities. Join now.

Last Updated 12th August’2021

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Kaushiki is a page and stage writer. She is a Spoken Word Poet, a painter, a potter and a solo traveller. She will befriend your pets faster than she'll become your friend. She believes in the power of stories and language, and that they hold the magic which can change the world into what we really want it to be! An advocate of kindness, on the days you don't see her doing what she loves, you'll find her slipping off staircases!

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