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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

No one likes to receive negative feedback. We’d all like to skate through life and have people tell us, “That was perfect! No changes necessary.” Or, “I love your ideas. Let’s adopt every single one of them.” Or, “Your report was impeccable. Don’t change a thing.”

If only.

The truth is, you will receive negative feedback at times, whether in a meeting, during an annual review, or from co-workers (in a more casual sense). Negative feedback can sting. You might feel defensive, you may dread the work that the feedback might create, or you might even feel some animosity toward the person who delivered the critique.

Those feelings are normal, and you can work through them. Let’s talk about 3 ways to deal with negative feedback.

1. Delay Your Reaction

When you or your work is criticized, your kneejerk reaction may be to bite back. You might say something snappy, blow off the criticism, or even attack the speaker. None of these are productive responses, and they may end up damaging relationships or your reputation.

Instead, take time to internalize the criticism. You might ask a clarifying question or two (or gently correct something the speaker misstated), but do your best to not be defensive. Even if you don’t entirely agree with the feedback, there may be a kernel of truth in it. Let your anger or disappointment subside before you respond.

2. Examine the Heart of the Feedback

How often do you latch onto a criticism, even when someone has given you several compliments? When dealing with negative feedback, sit down and think about everything that was said. Was the negative component the most important part of the feedback? Or simply the part that stuck with you?

Even if the negative portion of the feedback wasn’t the central focus, it’s worth addressing it. Now that you’re in a more neutral state (hopefully!), consider ways to course correct. Will this be a major undertaking? Will it involve other people or various resources? Start planning, but don’t get too far until you do Step 3…

3. Circle Back to the Critiquer

After you’ve had some time to digest the negative feedback, it’s a good idea to reach out to the person who delivered it. It could be that they didn’t state their case clearly, were confused, or overstated the problem. Or maybe they meant every word of their critique.

Whatever the case, I encourage you to contact this person and address their criticism head-on. You might start the conversation like this:

“I’ve been giving what you said about X a lot of thought, and I want to ask you some clarifying questions before diving in to make corrections. Can we chat?”

If they agree to talk, keep things civil and professional. You should have a genuine desire to make things better and improve! The goal of this conversation is to capture more information AND demonstrate to the other person that you hear them, respect their opinion, and are willing to put in the leg work to make things right.

No one loves negative feedback, but we can all learn from it. At times, this feedback may be exaggerated or just plain wrong, but don’t dismiss it outright. We can learn from others’ thoughts and perspectives, and it’s helpful to keep a humble, always-improving attitude. Besides, the more you deal with criticism, the easier it will be to take it.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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The business world can be cutthroat at times. For years, I worked with sales teams at 3M, leading people whose pay and reputation relied on their sales performance. With competitions and high expectations driving them, the sales professionals felt quite a bit of pressure to outshine others.

Fortunately, I worked with congenial groups of people who did not throw others under the bus, but usually functioned as a cohesive unit. Other teams, I know, are not so fortunate. Some will do whatever it takes to gain a promotion, win a competition, or make themselves look better than their colleagues. And this isn’t just limited to sales teams—this level of competitiveness can be found in all industries, at all levels of the company. Whenever there is something to be gained by trampling others, people will, unfortunately, do it.

This type of ruthless competitiveness can create an atmosphere of tension and distrust. People are constantly watching their backs, and are hesitant to open up to co-workers or leaders. Additionally, when competitiveness reigns, there is little room for non-performance-based initiatives (improving interpersonal communication, trying out new ideas, beta-testing a new product). Competitiveness means stomping on the accelerator and not stopping to consider alternative paths or potential innovations.

Instead of competing with co-workers, I’m a proponent of collaboration and encouragement. When you remove the competitive component, you start to function as a cohesive team (and, as we all know, many heads are better than one). There is a reason workplaces are comprised of many different people with myriad responsibilities and perspectives—we’re meant to work together, brainstorm, collaborate, and make improvements.

Additionally, when workplaces move from an atmosphere of competitiveness to one of affirmation and support, people just might enjoy going to work—imagine that! An article by Harvard Business Review says that, “Employees who report having friends at work have higher levels of productivity, retention, and job satisfaction than those who don’t.”

Instead of fostering a highly competitive environment, it’s time companies shift their focus to interpersonal relationships and dynamics. As a leader, you can help build community in your workplace team in many different ways. Try throwing brief “get to know you” activities into your team meetings (your favorite food, dream vacation, any upcoming trips or events). Or enroll your people in a coaching program, such as Insights® Discovery, which is team-oriented and known to create lasting changes. Or, occasionally plan an activity, outing, or retreat for the team. You could present a few ideas and let people vote on their favorite one (so they have a voice in the planning process and are invested in the idea).

No matter how you decide to build community and amiability among team members, it’s important that it happens. While some amount of competitiveness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it should not come at the expense of team unity and satisfaction. As a leader, you have the power to influence team cohesiveness, facilitate friendships, and encourage collaboration instead of competition.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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We spend so much time in our own heads, and wrapped up in our own thoughts, we tend to forget that others think differently than we do. They might have different perspectives, different trigger points, or process information in a different way. These differences could stem from our backgrounds, experiences, personalities, world views—any number of factors that shape our thoughts.

It is important to A) acknowledge these differences and B) embrace them!

As a Licensed Practitioner of Insights Discovery (read more about Insights in this post), I am very familiar with diversity of thought. Some people thrive on data and logic. They prefer to collect all the information they possibly can before making a decision (or even speaking up). In Insights Discovery language, these individuals lead with “blue energy.”

Others are creative idea generators. They like to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks (so to speak!). They enjoy talking out their thoughts and bouncing ideas off others. Generally, these people lead with “yellow energy.”

Additionally, a team might be comprised of “green energy” folks, who tend to be the most inclusive and empathetic of the four color energies. Their thinking often revolves around the greater good and how best to help people.

Then, there’s “red energy.” These individuals are action-oriented, so their thought process might go like this: “How can we get the best people on this project ASAP, and start delivering results?”

All these examples are, of course, generalizations (and I am very much glossing over what it means to lead with blue, yellow, green, and red energy), but the point I’m trying to illustrate is that people think, react, and process information in different ways. And that’s a good thing!

Can you imagine if everyone on your team was yellow energy-oriented and only enjoyed creative brainstorming? Maybe some of the ideas would bear fruit, but, without any data to back up the ideas, it’s difficult to know. On the other hand, data is absolutely critical for informing decisions, but data alone doesn’t create innovative solutions. You need a blend of both creativity and data.

So, when you’re making decisions on who to include on your team, take diversity of thought into consideration. Make an effort to include those who have different backgrounds and perspectives, diverse approaches, and various ways of looking at information or generating ideas. One way to identify thought diversity in your workplace is to utilize a science-based assessment program such as StrengthsFinder, DiSC, or (of course!) Insights Discovery.

If you’d like to learn more, send me a note.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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