Responding well to negative feedback could benefit you down the road.

Feedback phobia: Overcoming negative feedback in the workplace


Getting negative feedback, especially on something you worked hard on, is no fun. In fact, it can be extremely demoralising. It’s a natural human reaction to be upset when we’re criticised, but there are actually more benefits to receiving negative feedback than you might think. In fact, it might be the key to your success at work.

Working professionals who are interested in developing leadership management or communication skills should look at the way they respond to feedback. Taking a more positive approach to criticism could potentially be the factor that improves your professional development. Here’s how you can do it.

Getting feedback means your boss is invested in your success.

Benefits of negative feedback

Though it might not initially seem like it, getting feedback from your boss (even if it’s negative) means he or she is invested in your success, according to Forbes. Managers who don’t care about the growth of their employees might not take the time to give feedback.

On the other hand, good employers and colleagues who care about their team’s trajectory will want to help you improve – even if it means giving you feedback you don’t want to hear. Careers writer and speaker Rebecca Thorman explains why professionals should take the opportunity to show their coworkers that they’re eager to improve.

“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.”

The same goes for management-level employees who receive criticism from clients or business associates; there are lessons to be learned, even from your peers. Taking negative feedback and turning it into something positive will also give you personal agency in your work – you have the ability to show everyone around you how capable you are while developing yourself professionally.

Getting negative feedback might be unpleasant, but it will help you in the long run.Getting negative feedback might be unpleasant, but it will help you in the long run.

Making the most of criticism

With that said, here are some helpful tips for dealing with negative feedback at work.

1. Don’t assume the worst

Many people take negative feedback personally – this is the #1 thing not to do. Getting defensive will not only make you look stubborn, it will make it difficult for you to improve. It’s important to give your managers, clients and colleagues the benefit of the doubt. They’re commenting on the quality of your work, not the quality of you as a person, so keep that in mind as you process their feedback.

2. Listen, listen, listen

As with most work discussions, it’s important to listen and not interrupt when receiving feedback. You might be surprised by what you’ll learn! Actually internalising the talking points rather than pretending to listen will help you more in the long run. HBR says it’s also important to listen in order to figure out whether the feedback is fact or opinion – this will be helpful for you down the road.

3. Apply the lesson 

In many cases, the feedback you receive will be on a project or endeavour that is already completed, so it might be too late to fix it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t apply what you’ve learned to future work. It might also make sense to ask the person evaluating you to provide the feedback in writing – this way, you can have a hardcopy to look at when you continue working.

Individuals who view negative feedback as an opportunity to improve their work will likely go further than those who choose to ignore it. This is especially true for professionals with management aspirations.

At ICML, we offer a variety of leadership and communication training courses designed for people who are working on their personal and professional development. For more information about dealing with negative feedback, or to sign up for a course, reach out to us today.

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