How to short-circuit defensiveness and resentment and instead accept and apply tough input for the betterment of your company, and yourself.
Managers are expected to be resilient and take bad feedback gracefully, but these are skills that don’t come naturally to everyone, of course. Being criticized by a team, for example, can be particularly hard for managers to swallow.
These practical steps will guide you through that challenging process, and help turn the tide toward learning and professional betterment.
1. Keep emotions under control
Criticism raises everyone’s blood pressure, and can easily result in overreaction, but being dismissive or combative after a bad review can be worse than the behavior that led to the negative feedback in the first place. Always weigh your words.
Tip: It’s natural to want to defend yourself, but it will be more productive after getting all the details first.
For example, if it has been suggested that are overbearing, ask for the circumstances and description of that behavior. Only then will you be able to constructively respond, especially since your perspective will likely change after considering all the details.
2. Refrain from defending a point of view straight away
Fighting against or disregarding negative feedback is tempting, especially if it comes as a surprise, but it’s crucial to avoid negating a team’s point of view and/or laughing it off.
Often, flaws in our behavior are apparent to others, yet we are blind to them. Only supplied details will help us realize how we really come across. And, if there’s an apparent misconception or misunderstanding, explain any position by sticking to facts and avoiding personal comments.
Tip: If you feel a review is unjustified, the situation unclear or if you simply need a moment to process and acknowledge the feedback, then ask for more time before responding at length. Agree to meet again within a specified period to propose an improvement plan.
3. Give yourself time to feel disappointment and anger
Situations like these create complex and conflicting emotions, as a bad reputation may result in being fired and having trouble finding a new job.
Shutting them down is tempting, but it’s not in your best interest. Avoidance only prolongs the anguish and ensures that negative comments will bother you longer.
Resilience doesn’t mean freezing your feelings but instead processing them to promote inner peace.
Tip: Allow yourself to vent stress (ideally in private); this will help process the crisis faster and produce clearer thinking.
4. Be sure that you want to improve (no faking)
Only an honest self-audit yields good results.
Pretending to agree with feedback while actually holding a grudge won’t work, as seasoned staff members see through such a facade. Also, after things calm down, it means you’ll likely return to the old behavior pattern, and the cycle will repeat.
Tip: Managing people requires constand advancements and adjustments, so only individuals willing to do that have a chance to truly thrive in their careers. Be honest with yourself as to whether you’re devoted to doing so.
5. Be dedicated to making the necessary mindset shift
Receiving negative feedback can be among the most humbling experiences in your working life.
Feelings of resentment and humiliation can ensue — pushing many to change jobs while blaming the environment for unfair treatment. Letting yourself redefine your approach, by contrast, offers numerous advantages.
Tip: The following questions may start you on the way to change:
- Is my leadership style working or does it just look good on paper?
- What is the cause of the negative behavior?
- What did I misinterpret about this situation?
- How will I acquire the missing skills to ensure this won’t happen again?
6. Come back to your boss with a plan
After accepting comments and other observations, prepare a plan to ensure improved leadership and relationship with your team.
This may include organizing a team meeting (see point 7), altering unwanted behavior, getting a mentor or a coach or implementing a broader change program if the issue is more complex.
Tip: Come up with KPIs that would provide an objective picture of your progress within the available timeframe, and choose metrics that don’t leave space for interpretation or ill will.
7. Come clean with your team
It’s tempting to continue behaving as if nothing has happened, but that simply won’t work — your team will expect an explanation. These people aren’t your enemies: They merely expect sensible and respectful working conditions, as we all do.
Therefore, it’s best to come clean with them.
Tip: In the same vein as “lessons learned” meetings after a project closure, consider arranging a discussion about what went wrong. Admitting your part in any conflict and sharing solutions will demonstrate maturity and respect, and providing a platform to voice requests and suggestions encourages cooperation.
You must earn trust again, as managers can’t work without teams. Honest attempts to listen and improve will help keep the group intact.
8. Proactively update your manager about progress
It may be hard to stay calm during times of feeling exposed and critiqued, but this is your chance to show dedication, as well as work ethic, ownership and the ability to improve —all are traits sought for in good leaders.
Using these tips will give you a fighting chance to recover your reputation and return to good graces.
And even if the ultimate decision is not to stay with a company, progress made through considering and applying them will boost the odds of you being happier and more effective in your next job.