Everyone’s a critic, and when your boss is the one doing the critiquing — and it’s on the negative side — it can be tough to handle. Your first response might be to freak out or clam up, but as Ask a Manager blogger Alison Green writes in a recent U.S. News & World Report post titled “5 Tips for Responding to Negative Feedback at Work,” there are better options.
The first step, Green says, is to think of feedback as a positive thing — even when it’s negative. If you were doing something that might hurt your career growth or get you fired, wouldn’t you want to know about it? You might not agree with your manager’s assessment, but it’s still something you need to deal with moving forward. Plus, Green says, being someone who wants feedback makes you the type of person that others want to work with.
Changing your mindset is a big-picture, long-term solution. What should you do when you get some negative feedback, and you’re ready to fly off the handle and tell the boss exactly what you think? Green recommends taking some time to process the information. You’ll appear less defensive, and that sets you up for tip No. 3: “Actively show that you’re open to feedback.”
According to Green, managers sometimes struggle to give negative criticism, and if you can demonstrate that you’re willing to have a proper conversation and not simply switch into self-defense mode, you’re on your way toward a major objective: “having a discussion that’s more about collaborative problem-solving than one-way criticism,” as Green writes.
Now that you’ve ruminated on those harsh words and proved that you’re willing to do so, it’s time to “share relevant information,” as Green writes. This is your opportunity to respond to the feedback by telling your manager why a project was late, or why you prioritized one thing over another.
“As long as you’re actively demonstrating openness to your manager’s message, it shouldn’t come across as defensive to share information that might change her assessment,” Green writes.
The final tip is to feel comfortable asking for more time to fully absorb the feedback. This might be necessary if you genuinely aren’t sure how to respond. Ask to ponder thinks and reconnect in a few days — provided, of course, you actually intend to reconnect. If not, you might be asking for more negative feedback.