How to Take Feedback, Even When It’s Hard
Getting feedback in the workplace can be a difficult experience. We each crave success, aspiring for praise from our leaders and peers that will, in turn, make us feel recognized and valuable at work. In reality, constructive criticism will be doled out more often and will play a more significant role in the dynamics of our relationships with co-workers and in our individual performance.
Trust me, I know how hard it can be to receive feedback. When I was working in my first job out of college, my manager sat in on one of my calls with a client. After the call ended, she told me that I needed to do a better job of conveying confidence by being less apologetic and not heightening my pitch as I ended sentences. I took her input horribly. I thought she believed that I was not cut out for the job and that I was one strike away from being let go.
Over time, I’ve learned to build thicker skin and use constructive criticism as a means to become more competent in my responsibilites. Here are a few of the key takeaways that have helped me in shifting my mindset:
Accept Your Imperfections
Receiving input can be uncomfortable. If you take it personally, or take it as a sign that you’re bad at your job, it will quickly affect your performance.
For example, when my manager told me that I needed to project more confidence with clients, I took the feedback as a reflection of my personality and generalized it as how others normally perceive me in most settings. This made me increasingly self-conscious and self-critical as I engaged with customers, colleagues, friends and family.
To get over this hump, I decided to acknowledge negative thoughts when they came up, but instead of believing them, I’d come up with positive alternatives. Instead of “I don’t think I’m coming across as intelligent or experienced,” I began telling myself “I believe in my training and knowledge, I can help this client.”
Another mental shift is to accept that you are not perfect. Perhaps you occasionally lose your confidence or get anxious when speaking with more experienced, older professionals. Whatever the case may be, it is important to embrace your imperfections and accept consultation so that you give yourself an opportunity to mature both professionally and personally.
Ask for Help
Is there a certain role that you’re aiming for? What are your goals for the next five years?
To ensure that you are on track to hit your objectives over time, feedback from colleagues who either work closely with you or are in roles that you desire will be critical. (A combination of both would be even better!) This will allow you to get a better idea of the skills that are required to be successful in those target roles and understand where you need to improve in order to get there.
If the peers and superiors you hope to seek feedback from are currently silent, there may be numerous reasons that explain why. They may be shy or perhaps feel like you’ll take it the wrong way. Whatever their hesitation is, your aim should be to unravel the feedback they have to offer. To do this, you need to be honest and give a good reason for why you’d like their input.
For example, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m really eager to improve in this role. What is one thing that you think I can do to get better?”
If you frame your question with a reason, your colleague will feel more comfortable in opening up and giving you their honest thoughts.
You are also helping the colleague that you’re seeking advice from. Not only does their willingness to help make them look good in front of their boss, but it also gives them the chance to feel important and valuable.
Feedback carries no value if you never follow up on it.
Your first step should be to investigate it further. Ask your colleague for specific examples. Review documents, recordings, or any other relevant materials for the areas that you need to improve on.
Once you fully understand what you need to work on, you can form a plan for improving and monitoring your development over time.
It’s also worth considering that people who took the time to help you will more likely begin to pay more attention to you as a result. Out of curiosity (and their own self-interest) they will want to see whether you implemented their advice and how it improves your performance.
If you ignore your colleagues, you risk coming across as someone who is not seriously considering their opinions. As a result, the likelihood of them helping you in the future will be compromised.
Feedback is a constant in the working environment. Your approach to receiving and acting on feedback will define your professional development, relationships with colleagues, and outlook on life. My feedback for you is to take action and ensure that you are in a position to receive and process constructive criticism effectively!
Jon Gitlin is a Customer Success professional at a start-up in the East Bay Area. During his free time, he loves to watch the Warriors, go on runs, and listen to podcasts.