How to Handle Negative Feedback from Your Boss

At some point or another along their career journey, everyone is on the receiving end of negative feedback.

Whether it’s part of your annual performance review, or from an impromptu and dread-inducing “Have you got a spare five minutes to chat?”, critical comments can be difficult to swallow. We outline five ways to handle negative feedback.

1. Don’t take it personally

First and foremost, the most effective way to handle negative feedback is by de-personalizing it. Remember that feedback is the road toward growth, and your boss isn’t attacking you personally.

It’s easier said than done, but recognizing negative feedback as something that is critical for personal and professional growth will help you to improve and be better at what you do.

2. Show you’re open to receiving feedback

Whilst you might not feel extending empathy at the time, remember that actually giving negative feedback to an employee is an unpleasant task. Nobody likes giving people negative feedback, it’s just an unfortunate part of managing a team.

One of the worst ways to handle negative feedback is to reply with silence. Instead, say something along the lines of: “Thank you for telling me this, I didn’t realise it was a problem.” You don’t have to agree with them, as long as you don’t come across as defensive. Just thank them, acknowledge the issue, and show that you’re willing to collaborate to solve the problem together.

The more you show you’re open to the conversion, the easier it is for everyone involved.

3. Don’t react immediately – ask for time to process

When we receive negative feedback, it’s natural to want to react straight away and defend ourselves.

Instead, the best way to handle the situation is to take time to process what you’ve heard. Acknowledge what they’ve said and say you want to give it some real thought, and request a follow-up meeting to discuss it.

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Giving yourself time to think it over is beneficial for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps defuses the emotional load and cools you down. Waiting a few days before responding also gives you the opportunity to put things into context, and also gain an outsider’s perspective.

4. Clarify and share relevant information

Once you’ve had chance to clear your head and process their main points, ask yourself if there is any information your manager is missing that might impact their assessment if they knew.

Try to evaluate the feedback objectively. If you truly believe it’s unfair because your boss is missing something, ask for another chance to speak to them. Then take the opportunity to clarify the situation with them, and fill them in on whatever it is they’re missing.

The key here is to keep demonstrating that you’re open to their message, so you don’t come across as though you’re making excuses and are defensive.

5. Use it to change

Our final tip for how to handle negative feedback is to try to recognize it as a positive thing, and use it to improve and better yourself.

It’s definitely easier said than done, but negative feedback can be a huge opportunity for personal growth and development. Different perspectives reveal our blind spots that prevent us from progressing.

Studies show that people who welcome and accept feedback are more effective leaders and are more successful at work. Next time you find yourself receiving negative feedback, remember it isn’t personal and it’s an opportunity to show your capability for learning and growth.

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