Feedback is one of the best and worst parts about working with other people. It’s often tough to hear critical feedback, which can feel incredibly personal or unfair. On the other hand, feedback can be uplifting, challenging, and helpful because it gives you a chance to hear how someone else sees you and evaluates your work. It gives you a chance to grow and introduces a little challenge into your life.
I’ve learned over the years that in order to grow, most of us have to get uncomfortable. When we are comfortable, we do not feel motivated to change — so we don’t. How often are things going well and you think, wow I really need to change what I’m doing? I’m going to guess that most of you answered never because we believe that if it isn’t broken, there’s nothing to fix. However, there is always room to do more growing and learning. Here are just a few ways to reframe feedback and make it useful to you.
Do not take it personally.
Hillary Clinton once said, “It is important to learn how to take criticism seriously but not personally.” I know that is easier said than done but getting hurt or upset about what is being said will not serve you or make you better at your job. Think of yourself as an outsider looking in and listen to what is being said. Do not plot your counter-arguments or defense, simply listen and hear what your manager has to say. Often this person is in a position of power for a reason and has information that is valuable to both your job and your career. Your manager is there to make you better at your job and none of us are perfect. Reviews are there to give them a chance to say, do more of this and do less of that as we move forward. Sometimes it is because what you are doing or how you are doing it is not useful to them, sometimes it’s because they would rather do it themselves, or maybe you are doing it totally wrong. Whatever the reason, they are the ones in charge and part of your job is ensuring they are satisfied with both what are you are doing and how you are doing it.
Ask yourself if they are right.
It is often easier to get defensive when someone calls us out. Deep down though, we are often frustrated because we did not do our best and got called out. Take a breath and ask yourself if what they are saying has merit and if you truly feel like it does not, keep listening. True or not, you need to understand what their perception of you is. Sometimes it is just a miscommunication or difference in styles and sometimes it is deeper than that. Each company and person has their own culture and style that needs to be learned in order to thrive. Use it as an opportunity to listen and learn without letting it weigh you down.
Focus on what you can control.
A good critic will give you examples of what you are currently doing, what effect that behavior has, and what they would like to see you do instead. Listen to what they do not like and want to see less of and focus on what they do like and want to see more of. A good performance review will focus on both the good and the bad of your performance. If they only give you the problem and not the solution, try to work through it together. Start with a statement like “I hear you saying that it is not effective when I do X, what would be a better way for me to approach that issue?” Work to leave the encounter with solutions for how you can do your job even better than you already are!
Before you fire back, sleep on it!!
I recently advised a client who was upset about some feedback to sleep on it and to go back to her boss the next day and discuss it. She is very direct and the critique was that she was too aggressive. Her boss was only hearing her sides of the conversations but the clients had not only never complained but were thrilled with her work. She calmly brought it back to her boss who listened to her concerns and after some reflection apologized for projecting an unfair assessment onto her work. Getting mad or defensive will not help you in a review. Keep it calm and ask for an outside opinion from someone you trust before giving your response if possible.
One of the best things you can do to mentally prepare for feedback is remind yourself that the goal of this is to make you a better employee and that ultimately the company is invested in your success because as a part of a larger machine, it is in their best interest for you to be great. So keep an open mind and heart as you listen and take what was meant for you to take you to the next step in your career.