Turn a negative into a positive with these top tips for giving criticism at work a more constructive spin
Confidence at work can be a fragile thing. Considering the amount of time and care we spend trying to meet our deadlines, researching, drafting and re-drafting and trying to be a good colleague, boss and/or leader, it’s completely understandable why it's so hard not to take negative feedback personally rather than professionally.
Whether you’ve received it in a one-on-one scenario or more awkwardly, in front of colleagues, at an appraisal, meeting or interview, here’s two of our Get The Gloss Experts' top career advice for turning a negative into a positive and using critique as a valuable ally to fuel your career aspirations.
1. Consider where the feedback comes from
“First and foremost, try to understand where it is coming from regarding the person who delivered it,” recommends Executive and Career Coach Anna Percy-Davis . “Is it fact or fiction? If you feel the feedback is unfair and unjustified, you need to look at why the person would say such a thing (are they threatened by you or just in a dark space themselves?) However, you need to be really honest here too - if you are at all unsure you need to check it out with colleagues you like and trust. If there is a grain of truth in the feedback, start tweaking your behaviour.”
2. Change your outlook
“This is controversial but there is no such thing as ‘negative feedback’ in my opinion, only feedback,” says Andrew Wallas, aka The Modern Day Wizard . “We are all compelled to label aspects of life ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ (good and bad), but when we look back into our life we often see that what we labelled negative was in fact amazingly positive for us and vice versa.”
3. Turn it into an opportunity
“Really use any negative feedback as an opportunity - if you are doing (or not doing) something, than be grateful that someone has pointed it out to you as there is every chance if you continue without making the necessary changes, you will probably limit your career progression,” explains Anna.
4. Look at the bigger picture
When on the receiving of not-so-positive critique, it's easy to forget how it can also benefit your life outside of the office too. Instead, view it as a way to improve your wider skill set too. “So-called negative feedback helps us to integrate aspects of ourselves which are denied, thereby helping us to become more rounded, more whole operators at work and at home,” says Andrew.
5. Get motivated
Feeling feisty? Channel that emotion into something proactive rather than self-destructive. “If the feedback has made you angry or upset, use that energy (both anger and distress create energy) and grit your teeth and make the necessary changes - so let that anger and distress motivate not freeze you,” advises Anna.
6. View it as self-improvement
“Negative feedback helps us to become stronger in the opposite polarity of the feedback,” explains Andrew. “For example, if we receive feedback that we are bullying and dominant, then if we are prepared to acknowledge and integrate our dominating side we will automatically become more gentle and compassionate.”
7. Don't over-personalise it
Above all, keep it professional and take a step back to ensure that the stresses of work life don’t filter into your home life too. “Don't fall into the trap of over-personalising the feedback - negative feedback is generally about a behaviour or action that you are or are not doing it, is not about you the person so focus on changing the behaviour not you the person,” says Anna.
“If you can do this it will stop you getting defensive when you are given the feedback. Try to stay calm and rational when you are receiving the feedback and try to create a dialogue such that you can come out of the meeting with a clear strategy on how you are going to change whatever has been criticised.”
8. Use it to improve your interpersonal skills
Often the criticism that hurts us most is the type we receive regarding how we interact with others. However, viewing it as a way to increase our self-awareness makes it a much sweeter pill to swallow. “So-called negative feedback increases awareness of how others see us and hence also increases our awareness of ourselves,” says Andrew.
9. Treat it as a project
“So-called negative feedback also invites us to extend our capacity beyond our normal boundaries and ways of operating,” adds Andrew. Treating it in the same way that you would a meeting or a project could provide the perfect way of showing your superiors your willingness to adapt by actually acting on what has been recommended.
10. Listen to both the good and the bad
“Finally, be careful not to fall into the trap of just hearing the negative feedback. Often negative feedback is delivered alongside positive feedback and it is important that you hear both,” explains Anna. “Sometimes we are in a feedback session where over 90% of the feedback is positive and only 10% is negative, so try to stay balanced and listen to both the good and the bad. Being energised by good feedback is equally as important as working on changing negative feedback.”