Why you want bad feedback. Really

So, you’ve had some bad feedback from your manager and it’s making you feel rubbish. Yes, you wanted some constructive comments but you really didn’t realise it would be quite so devastating. Now you just want to curl up in a ball and disappear.

I know how you feel

In my last newsletter, I linked my subscribers to an article I wrote for the Guardian on-line. I was thrilled when it was published, but then, within minutes, the first daft comment appeared. Then more, some quite offensive. At #no 17 I stopped reading. Few were adding anything useful, or constructive.

I’ve got to tell you, it felt bad. In those first few moments I promised myself I’d never write another word. I’d keep my opinions private. I’d stay safe in my comfort zone. I decided to have a duvet day.

Feedback can be hard to take 

In my one-to-one coaching with third sector professionals we spend time looking at how to accept challenging feedback and use it positively. Feedback can knock your confidence and be very hard to take on board. Negative feedback creates an emotional reaction which tends to make you defensive and this is especially true if it’s not delivered well. (See my blog here for how to give feedback so it will be heard.)

But feedback is actually the Number 1 way of improving performance at work. Praise is nice. Sure. But for those tough enough to come out of the self-pity (and the duvet), pause, acknowledge and learn from it, more challenging feedback is a priceless gift. Everything you need to know to improve and grow professionally and personally is right there. Don’t ignore it!

So what did I do?

Well, eventually I emerged from my duvet and cautiously returned to the Guardian site. I found that after the negative early risers had had their say, others were beginning to like it and comment positively. I saw the Shares began steadily to rise.

The next day I was ready to learn from it. I’m not sure there was a lot the comments could teach me – I think it was probably more about them than me, as they say – but there was still learning here.

Three important questions

So, I took myself off somewhere quiet and asked myself three questions. I encourage my coaching clients to think about these when they’ve been hit with some close-to-the-bone feedback. Even if the feedback wasn’t given especially well, these questions will help you to coach yourself.

1. If I choose to learn from this feedback what can I learn about myself?

2. If I choose to learn from this feedback what can I learn about other people?

3. If I choose to learn from this feedback what would I do differently next time?


Some of the things I learned were…

That I can be quite a softie (I think I probably knew that already). That it felt good to be being published and that I want to do more. That if I want to make a difference I need to be ‘out there’, however hard it is. That some people can be twerps. That if you write for a national newspaper you will get crazy comments. That not everyone is going to like what I write. That lots of third sector people do (419 Shares can’t be wrong).

Oh, and next time, I won’t be reading the Comments until a good 24 hours have gone by.

Over to you

So, how are you at taking feedback? Do you see it as a golden opportunity to learn or are you more likely to go all defensive on the giver? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so do leave a comment in the Reply section below.

What next?

Giving and receiving feedback are key skills to develop if you’re serious about your professional growth. For coaching support for you (or a team member) call 0208 772 7808 or email me here. I’m booking for summer coaching now and have a few spaces left.


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