The prospect of getting critical feedback from your boss can fill you with dread. When you take great pride in your work and meticulously plan each event, hearing what you could have done better can be hard to swallow. Negative feedback, though, doesn’t have to seem like the end of the world. In fact, it can be instructive and help further your professional development.
A study conducted by the leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman and published in the Harvard Business Review found that, in a one-to-three margin, negative feedback does more to improve performance than positive feedback. Employees find it beneficial to hear specifics about what they can improve upon or how they can do their job more efficiently — it’s a matter of how you react to the constructive criticism you receive. Here are some do’s and don’ts to make some positive come out of the negative, according to workplace experts quoted in a Fast Company article:
Do accept the feedback
If your boss is taking the time to show you what needs improvement, you should take the time to really listen to what s/he has to say. It’s easy to start formulating arguments or rebuttals while your boss is still talking, but doing that will limit the amount of feedback — negative and positive — that you actually hear. Instead, take notes while s/he’s talking. This will help you stay focused during your meeting and give you something to refer back to as you digest the feedback and begin integrating it into your daily work.
Don’t blame others
There are likely a number of reasons why you missed a deadline or how incorrect data showed up in your presentation. But when the mistakes you’ve made or deadlines you’ve missed are pointed out, don’t play the blame game. Sure, Sue from accounting might have given you the wrong numbers for the presentation and the intern might have messed up the printing file, but in the end, the work you submitted had errors. Instead of blaming, accept responsibility for the mistake and start to identify steps you can take to improve in the future — like double checking your work.
Do use it as a growth tool
According the Zenger Folkman study, 72 percent of respondents said that they believe their performance would improve if their managers provided them with constructive feedback and 57 percent actually prefer constructive criticism to positive feedback. This kind of conversation gives you an opportunity to ask questions and clarify any confusion or misunderstandings with your boss. Ask your boss about what s/he thinks you can improve upon or what few things s/he thinks you can do differently to produce better work.
Don’t react immediately
It’s almost impossible not to get defensive when you are criticized, and that is absolutely normal. Try not to react to the feedback you received while you are experiencing those feelings, though. Take some time to process the constructive criticism you received (use those notes you took!) and develop an articulate response. Remember that negative feedback about your work is about the work and isn’t a personal attack, so make sure you craft a response about the work, too.
Do create a plan
After you’ve had a chance to digest the feedback, create a plan that outlines how you can improve your work structure and flow. Put your boss’ advice into practice and focus on streamlining your work processes. Consider developing a follow-up plan with your boss, too. Schedule time a few weeks after your initial feedback meeting to meet with him or her again to review your progress.
As you map out your improved work plan, check out this 90-minute rule for peak professional performance.