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  1. Blog
  2. Culture & Professionalism
  3. June 25, 2018

How to Handle Feedback (Good and Bad) at Work

Step 1: Recognize it. Step 3: World domination.

How to Handle Feedback (Good and Bad) at Work

Ah, the dreaded feedback process. Many companies have a regimented review cycle; many don’t. Whether you meet with your manager once a month, twice a year, or never, it’s important to consider how you’re handling all kinds of feedback at work.

What does feedback look like?

When was the last time your manager made a suggestion to you in an email or during a meeting? That would be considered feedback. Did the CEO leave a post-it on your desk thanking you for expediting a report? Feedback. Did a coworker comment on how organized your desk is? Feedback.

Basically any situation where your work or way of working is being commented on is a form of feedback — positive or negative, it doesn’t matter.

So the last time something like the above took place, did you agree with the suggestion or comment? Did it offend you? Did you take it to heart and try to change? Think about how you reacted to what happened.

Even if we don’t always agree with a suggestion, the fact is that sometimes, we’ll have to make the change anyway. It’s part of working for a manager and a company.

So what are the best ways to handle both positive and negative feedback at work? Here are some ideas.

Don’t take criticism (too) personally

Remember that both your company and your manager most likely want you to succeed (if not, get outta there!), because they want the business to succeed. Repeat that to yourself before going into a feedback session. They want me to succeed so the business can succeed.

If you view any negative feedback or criticism through this lens, you can remove yourself from the equation a little bit. Think to yourself, “They are just providing me with information for how I can do better to make the company better.” It has nothing to do with who you are outside of work.

Just as you disassociate yourself with work when you get home each day (I hope), when you’re at work, try to disassociate your personal pride or instinctive defensiveness. Realize that sometimes businesses just need more sales or productivity. It’s that clear-cut.

Too much positivity can be a bad thing

A former coworker of mine hated, absolutely despised, receiving positive feedback from our boss. One small, “Great job with that!” and his eyes would roll. It made him uncomfortable. He felt condescended to.

While a lot of people may feel motivated by extra encouragement, some find it insulting to be complimented simply for doing their jobs. Because really, why should we be praised for doing exactly what we’re supposed to do?

Keep in mind that a manager who is constantly throwing positive feedback at you may not always be genuine. If you’re complimented for every little thing you do, how will you know when you actually do something that goes above and beyond expectations? How will you know when you do something wrong?

Excessive positive feedback can be detrimental to our level of motivation; if we think there’s nothing left to improve, we probably won’t challenge ourselves like we should.

Don’t be afraid to offer feedback to higher-ups

I usually feel intimidated when reviewing my manager or providing feedback to anyone who outranks me. In fact, I don’t know anyone who feels completely comfortable doing it. We tend to want to keep the peace. We don’t want to make things awkward. And most of all, we don’t feel like it’s our place to critique those who are above us (at least, not to their faces).

And it makes sense. We are required to follow guidelines of the company, and our job duties are created and monitored by our managers. Who are we to step in and give criticism?

While it may not always be appropriate to speak up, when you do have a one-on-one meeting or a review session, it’s perfectly acceptable to give feedback about what’s not working in your job or give a suggestion to your manager about a new way of doing things.

As long as you keep it polite and professional, giving your honest feedback can create a more respectful relationship between you and your manager. They will probably appreciate your honesty —  managing isn’t easy, and from their end, they’re likely always looking for ways to improve.

In short...

  • Feedback doesn’t have to be scary. Remember not to take it too personally — you work for a business, after all, so leave it at that.
  • Too much praise can actually be negative; a good balance of positive and constructive feedback is a great way to feel appreciated but also challenged.
  • And never be afraid to speak up if you have suggestions of your own.

By Meredith Boe

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Meredith Boe


Meredith Boe is a writer, editor, and grant writer, and a regular contributor to InHerSight. Her writing focuses on working women, self-employment, small businesses, finance, and legal, in addition to her literary criticism, poetry, and creative prose. She holds a master's degree in writing and publishing from DePaul University, and her bylines include the GoDaddy Garage, The Chicago Reader, and the Chicago Review of Books.

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