Has this ever happened to you?
You get an email from your boss that reads something like this:
Hey Steph. Can you come to my office for a second? Thanks.
It’s innocent enough but you know you’re about to get feedback and instantly you feel a tsunami of emotions. You immediately review the last week or so and try to think of what you could have possibly done wrong. Heck, you could go into the drama spiral and begin examining every mistake you have ever made.
Your inner dialogue sounds something like this: “Was it the last project I completed? Was it not good enough? I worked hard on that! Wait, that was a team project and Steve didn’t get his data to me until the last minute. He’s so lazy. It’s his fault it was rushed. I can’t believe him…”
You enter your supervisor’s office and your breathing quickens slightly as you quickly review your prepared speech about Steve and how his lack of diligence has put you in this spot.”
As you sit down across from your supervisor, you hear, “It has been a real pleasure having you on our team. You do great work and sometimes you do a lot more than your fair share. We want to move you to a team lead position. We think you’d be great. What do you think?”
As you sit back down at your desk after accepting your new position, you think to yourself, “Why did I get so defensive when I got that email? What’s wrong with me?”
Maybe not this exact scenario but you’ve probably experienced something similar.
I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s true. We don’t do feedback well.
Whether it’s at home or at the office, we tend to show our claws when someone attempts to correct us. Understanding the why behind our resistance will help us receive AND deliver feedback in a way that will drive progression and growth.
Feedback is a powerful tool so it’s important to maximize the power of feedback in the workplace – whether we are offering it or receiving it.
What’s Our Problem!?!
The most common reason we bristle at feedback is because our past experience with it is rooted in the need to change our behavior. This is called redirecting feedback and its purpose is to allow you to address behavior that’s not working. Essentially, we’re told we need to change and unfortunately, accepting change isn’t always easy or enjoyable. So instead of accepting the feedback as productive and helpful, we shy away from or fight against it.
Another common reason for receiving feedback poorly is because of past experiences. Past feedback may have been warranted and accurate, but it may have been delivered in such a way that we remember it as a negative experience and it’s now affecting our ability to gracefully accept any new feedback.
Another potential reason is because we just don’t like to be in uncomfortable situations. Sitting down with a manager to hear some feedback definitely has the potential to be uncomfortable. And unless you’re fully aware of your emotions, there’s a good chance you can become triggered at something you hear and become defensive. And when you’re defensive, no feedback will ever be considered productive or helpful.
Sometimes receiving feedback can feel like a rejection. It’s important to know that there’s a difference between you and your work. When you receive feedback about your work, you can’t automatically think that your character or who you are is being judged and rejected. You are not your work. It is very possible for someone to give feedback on what you’ve done without judging who you are. But this is only possible if you’re able to draw the line between who you are and the work you do. Remember to receive feedback as an opportunity to address BEHAVIOR that is not getting you the result you want.
Finally, feedback is about growth and improvement and it should be received similarly. When receiving feedback, keep an open mind and prepare yourself for change. Remember, even well-intentioned bosses can deliver feedback poorly so check your emotions and think before reacting. If you’re unclear about something that is said, ask clarifying questions and keep asking until you fully understand what’s being communicated.
Don’t Cause Problems. Do It Right!
Creating a Workplace Culture of Growth through Constructive Feedback
You are committed to creating a workplace culture of growth through constructive feedback. It’s important to practice and do it well. As a leader, please recognize that if given incorrectly, feedback can be like lighting the fuse to a giant bomb. To make sure this doesn’t happen, consider your timing when delivering feedback. Check your emotions and focus on observed behaviors, not opinions.
If you give feedback that’s laced with opinions, absolutes or hear-say, you’ve stopped giving feedback and you’ve moved to criticism. Only use facts and observations as a part of your feedback and when the meeting has started, get straight to the point. There’s no need to dance around the issues.
Clients of Leaders Inspired and readers of The Humanized Leader recognize four important words as it relates to feedback.
F – Factual
D – Direct
N – Neutral
K – Kind
Think About It.
Think back on a time when you received feedback that you disagreed with. How did you feel? How did you react? Having read this post, if you received the same feedback today, would you react differently?
Becoming a Humanized Leader is a process that will take time and effort. And receiving feedback in a positive way is a critical step to take on your journey. Please know that as you put in the effort, you’ll see the progress. And remember, even the smallest amount of progress is still progress!
Please share in the comments – I’d love to hear your success stories about your giving and receiving feedback experiences. We all learn together!
Mary Pat Knight is CEO of Leaders Inspired – an executive coaching and consulting agency devoted to the development of emotionally intelligent leaders. She is also the author of the Amazon #1 International Best Selling book, The Humanized Leader.
The ground-breaking new book, The Humanized Leader: The Transformative Power of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership to Impact Culture, Team and Business Results, is now available in Kindle, paperback, or as an audiobook. To get your copy – or extras for your team, click the button below.