Nobody likes receiving negative feedback. Even when what you are saying is true, there is always an undeniable sting that comes with receiving any type of negative feedback, and it can cause a loss of morale. However, the problem is that negative feedback is necessary. Learning how to harness it shows the tendency of growth and progress. No one does a perfect job and there is always room for improvement. There are always things that can be done better, more efficiently and effectively. Negative feedback is what makes everyone notice these gaps and opportunities for improvement.
Feedback is part of what drives an organization. The consistent flow of exchanging ideas, brainstorming, and launching initiatives to make things better and more efficient – is fueled by feedback and this is what keeps the company running. Unfortunately, negative feedback has been demonized lately, especially with the advent of cyberbullying on social media. Now, even legitimate criticism can be labeled “hateful” or “scathing” behavior. Unfortunately, this type of culture has penetrated corporate workplaces, where bosses and leaders can be hesitant to provide feedback lest it be misinterpreted. As a result, many organizations miss opportunities to grow, develop, and become more relevant.
Turning negative feedback into a positive signal
Negative feedback doesn’t always have to be “negative” and should be redefined in workplace mindsets to be instructive, a springboard to the next level of excellence. It is important to realize that there are many more pros than cons when negative comments and reviews are made and delivered correctly.
To that end, here are some ways to reap the positive benefits of negative feedback:
- Establish a constructive feedback culture free from negativity. :- Just as it is easy to praise, it is also very easy to post negative comments. The goal is to create a workplace environment where both are not common. An environment full of unnecessary complaints and criticism can become counterproductive and negatively impact productivity. Instead, foster a workplace where positive and negative feedback is provided. Make all comments count. Don’t just hand out misfortunes – explain mistakes and offer solutions and suggestions on how they can be avoided in the future. Likewise, don’t be hollow with your praise – look for the accomplishments of the receiver and teammates and congratulate them on a job well done.
Giving positive and negative feedback shows that you pay attention to what is being done and that you are not just flexing your management muscles (as is the case with bad managers who like power and firing people). People are also in a better position to realize what they are doing wrong and take action to correct it.
- Remove the practice of mistakenly including false positives in negative feedback:- There is something like a “feedback sandwich”, where criticism is sandwiched by praise (praise – criticism – compliment). Most of the time, the positives are hollow or inconsequential, but they are often misunderstood as (along with criticism) it is a sign of a job well done. Lessons learned from negative feedback are meaningless and cannot be absorbed and understood properly if there is always an attempt to serve you with meaningless praise. Focus on giving concise, helpful, and constructive criticism so the recipient doesn’t miss the point you want to make, and set a separate time for the compliments you’d also like to give. Remember, the general rule here is that honesty is the best policy. Don’t think in words or try to “pretty up” or rationalize a mistake. Be clear (but not cruel, of course) and get straight to the heart of the matter.
- Don’t criticize for the sake of criticism:- Likewise, don’t tell someone, “You’re doing a bad job.” It’s vague and ambiguous and doesn’t help anyone. Any negative feedback and criticism should be as detailed as possible so the recipient knows exactly what they did wrong. And if you can, add suggestions or recommendations on how improvements can be made and how mistakes can be avoided in the future.
Let’s say you have an employee who is always late for meetings. In addition to pointing out this error, explain the repercussions of this type of behavior, such as an indication of a lack of respect for other people’s time or wasting resources and effort to have people re-explain things to a latecomer. Not to mention the effect of being late for especially important meetings, like those with clients, which could very well get you kicked out of the competition just because of an issue like tardiness.
- Make negative feedback for the recipient’s ears only:- Make sure any negative feedback or reviews you give are recorded, but also confidential. There is nothing to be gained by making someone lose face in front of their peers. Even if a mistake is made by a group, the best thing to do is talk to them one by one in private, individual feedback sessions.
- Always take time to listen:- Giving negative feedback is not a discussion type of conversation. Some mistakes happen due to circumstances outside the influence of the people involved. Always give people their fair shake and allow them to explain themselves. It is an important step in the learning process so that people can be heard. Learn to empathize and step into other people’s shoes. This way, you can put yourself in a much better position to help that person stop being criticized and learn and grow from their mistake.
Responding to negative feedback
It’s never easy to receive negative feedback, but try to see things on a larger scale and work to overcome hurt pride. With the right mindset, negative feedback can spur you to improve, and grow, and allow you to seize ideas, opportunities, and paths for development that might otherwise have remained unknown.
- Relax and think things through:- One of the most common immediate reactions to receiving negative feedback is anger. While this is understandable, you also need to take a step back, calm down, and think rationally and logically before reacting or saying anything. Especially if you think the criticism is unwarranted, it’s important to think things through so you can better formulate your defense. Never give in to these emotions (you know, like running into a wall) as they do not help anyone and affect you adversely.
- Try to understand the feedback, and get as much detail as possible:- Just as reviews should always be detailed and specific, recipients of negative feedback need to try to get as many of these details as possible. It’s difficult to take any criticism or feedback into consideration if you don’t understand it from the beginning. Get second, third, and fourth opinions on the matter so you can formulate a more objective idea of what’s wrong (or if there was anything wrong in the first place) and what improvements can be made.
In a Harvard Business Review article, a study shows that people generally tend to avoid a person (or people) who gives them negative feedback. True negative feedback and constructive criticism are never personal and should never be taken as some kind of personal affront. Always look to see the better part of it, as that’s what only guarantees your better understanding of the intent of the one giving you the feedback. Lastly, try to get feedback on projects carried out by you from time to time and be ready to take corrections from them.