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Tag Archives: negative feedback

The art of dealing with criticism at work

Criticism stings.  Sure, it is sometimes couched as gentler “feedback”, or offered as “advice”, or even presented as a “pointer”.  Yet criticism it is.  And most of us don’t respond positively to criticism, especially at first.  Dealing with criticism is difficult and sometimes hard to swallow.  But if you want to grow as a valued professional and a respected leader, it is to your benefit to open-mindedly evaluate the criticism you hear, even if it hurts or it isn’t what you believe to be true.  But how exactly does one do that?

So glad you asked!  Because that is exactly what I cover in my latest column in The Globe and Mail which published this morning.  In it, I outline a simple two-dimensional tool that I utilize in my one-on-one mentoring work with leaders in my client organizations.  I call it the “Valid and important” model, and it’s very useful when dealing with criticism.

Evaluating what matters: A better way to deal with criticism at work

dealing with criticism

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B10. Continue reading

Leaders, do you solicit and listen to negative feedback?

Woman With Sore FeetI’ve often blogged about how leaders can give negative feedback more effectively (including this post: Five things every leader should know about giving negative feedback).  But a recent event caused me to consider how good leaders are at soliciting and listening to negative feedback.

Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.

My dad used this phrase the other day, specifically to give a vendor negative feedback about unsatisfactory service.  My father had complained about the quality of the service he had received from one of the company’s staff members, and the supervisor-in-charge was arguing with him, questioning my dad’s account, and suggesting that what he had received was adequate.  My dad’s response was a succinct way of emphasizing that because he was the sole recipient of the service, he was the only one who could offer first-hand knowledge of whether the result was acceptable or not.  In other words, the person receiving the service is in the best position to offer feedback, both positive and negative!

This phrase got my attention, and not just because it was unusual.  Continue reading

How to reduce the effect of destructive criticism

Back in February, my professional colleague Patricia Morgan wrote a guest post on workplace resiliency, specifically on how resilient people have an attitude of gratitude, even during tough times.   Her post was received so well that I asked her to join us again, and today she writes about another aspect of resiliency – responding positively to destructive criticism.

PatMorganReduce the Destructive Effect of Criticism

“I have some constructive criticism for you.”

Stop! Before criticizing it would be best to consider the results of doing so.

People with high resilience manage unwelcome criticism. They censor the criticism they both give and receive.

There are those who are totally against using any form of criticism and then there are the critical hardliners who say “A real friend will tell you the naked truth.” Then there are people who have a critical mind and perspective. Their gift is a logical critique that forewarns of problems. They could save us potential angst and trouble.  But where is the balance?

Here are reasons not to criticize: Continue reading

Need to have a difficult conversation with an employee?

Mgr-Emp-1Difficult conversations are just that … difficult … which is why so many of us keep putting them off. Has this ever happened to you? You have a problem or an issue you need to bring up with one of your employees – perhaps it’s a missed deadline, or constant tardiness, or a complaint from a customer – but things are overwhelmingly busy around the office and you can’t seem to make the time. Plus let’s face it, you’re not exactly looking forward to the conversation. So you might do what so many others in your situation do – you say, in passing, to your employee “We need to talk, but now is not a good time.” Don’t.

Why? Well, for one, the anticipation of not knowing what’s going on (even though your employee likely has some idea) will make your staff member feel apprehensive. Essentially you will be creating unease and anxiety without providing an opportunity to alleviate it. If your goal is to resolve the situation or get the employee to change their behaviour, then you’ve created a losing proposition before you’ve even started. Two, Continue reading

Feedforward – stay future-focused when offering feedback

forwardGiving negative feedback to employees is one of the hardest things that leaders have to do, so I often offer up how-to tips and ideas on the blog. One of my (many) past suggestions has been to stay future-focused in your conversation. Well I recently heard a new term to describe this approach – feedforward – and I liked it so much, I thought it was worth revisiting in today’s post.

Feedforward is focused on offering an employee suggestions for the future with a goal of helping them as much as you can. Supporters of the feedforward model suggest that because feedback focuses on the past, on what has already occurred, it is limited and static. Whereas feedforward, because it focuses on the infinite variety of opportunities that can happen in the future, is expansive and dynamic. Now I don’t think it really matters what word you choose because “feedback”, if it’s done well (and is future-focused), is just “feedforward” in disguise. But I do acknowledge that the word “feedforward” is an obvious and visible reminder of the importance of looking ahead rather than into the past. So let’s call it feedforward.

Here’s how it works. Continue reading

Five things every leader should know about giving negative feedback

The thumb down icon. Rejected and no, negative symbol. FlatIf you’re in a position of formal leadership, then it’s your job to offer feedback, both positive and negative, to your staff. The positive feedback is easy – it’s the thank you’s, the pats of the back, the kudos to the team. But offering negative feedback isn’t so simple, often because many leaders don’t know how, don’t have the time, or both. Yet it’s your job to deliver your message in a way that is constructive, heard and acted upon. So can you effect positive behavior change, rather than create anger and resentment? Sure you can, and in the past I’ve often blogged about it (see Giving negative feedback: focus on facts instead of opinions for one example. But today, I thought I’d summarize five must-do’s that every leader should know about giving negative feedback. Continue reading

When giving negative feedback, weigh the tradeoffs

WeighscaleAs a leader, one of your more challenging tasks is to give negative feedback to an employee.  And there’s an art to doing it effectively; after all, your goal is to get a desired behaviour change, not to frustrate or de-motivate your employee.  In the past I’ve offered specific advice on how to give negative feedback (see links below), but today I want to step back and ask you to consider whether the feedback is even necessary.  It is always worth your while to weigh the tradeoffs before you have a conversation with the transgressing employee. Continue reading

Why (negative) feedback is so important (another leadership lesson from “Kitchen Nightmares”)

Last week I blogged about the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares in which host Chef Gordon Ramsay walked away from Samy and Amy Bouzaglo’s failing restaurant, ultimately unable to help them turn things around. Today, I want to reflect on that episode again, but this time with another lesson for leaders. First, watch these two clips from the show.

Continue reading

The top five reasons your employees won’t give you feedback

Rell DeShaw is a manager in Canada’s federal public service and I met her at the National Managers’ Community Development Forum in Winnipeg this past May.  She is not only an exceptional leader but also an avid learner and teacher, seeking to discover and share resources with others.  She is the author of her own blog Letter to a New Manager, and a few weeks ago I asked her if she would guest here on Turning Managers into Leaders.  Much to my delight, she agreed!

I believe in giving upward feedback … but I subscribe to the theory that the higher up you go, the less willing people are to give you honest feedback.  Unfortunately, because of the perceived power imbalance, many employees won’t bother telling you what they really think.  Here are their top five reasons why they won’t AND my rebuttals to these rationales.

  1. It’s the leader’s job to give me feedback not the other way around. Like any relationship, your relationship with your boss goes two ways, so as long as feedback is given in a way that has the potential to strengthen the relationship, it can be done.
  2. They should already know this – don’t managers get trained? No matter how much training a manager takes, the fact is that they have never managed you. They can’t read your mind and they may forget that they are not managing a clone of themselves. Of course your boss has preferences about how they want to work and ultimately they get the last word. But you won’t know if there is room for change until you ask.
  3. I’ll probably get fired for insubordination. That is certainly possible if you choose to give the feedback in a disrespectful way but I think that the better way to approach it is that you were both hired to work for the same goal. If you have a suggestion to change the working relationship to be more effective in reaching a common result, why wouldn’t you propose it? In upward feedback discussions I always ask myself “What’s in it for them?” and “What’s in it for the organization?” Without good answers to these two questions, I am not yet ready to have an upward feedback discussion.
  4. If they wanted my feedback they’d have asked for it. Yes in an ideal world they would have, but this doesn’t mean you can’t offer it anyway. It won’t occur to some, some don’t know how to ask, some don’t think they’d get any feedback even if they tried.
  5. I have no reason to believe this will be effective. Some ways to test the water without actually talking to your boss include: Doing back door checks to see how they have reacted to feedback in the past. If the person doesn’t “suffer fools gladly” it may not be worth it. It is however a good sign of the person has done a 360 degree feedback exercise.

So, what do you have to add to this list?  What are your reasons for not giving (or giving) feedback to your boss?  Let’s add to this great list that Rell has started.  Please add your Comments below.

You can dialogue with Rell through her blog at Letter to a New Manager.

Giving negative feedback? It is possible to do it and actually boost an employee’s spirit!

A few weeks ago, I gave you a short video clip about focusing on the problem rather than the person when giving negative feedback to your employees.  In this installment, I show you a way to criticize an employee while actually boosting the employee’s morale!  Watch the video below to find out how.

If giving negative feedback to your employees is something you struggle with, then be sure to also take another look at these past blog posts:

So, let’s have a conversation about how you manage this challenging aspect of your leadership role.  Share your approach to giving negative feedback with me and others on this blog.  Just click on the Comment link below.