Feedback has an effect on you whether you're receiving it from an annual performance review, a 360 feedback assessment, or a seemingly well-intentioned comment from a supervisor or colleague. Your interpretation of the feedback depends on a multitude of factors including the source, the content, the intention, your ability to change in relation to the feedback, and how you're feeling when you receive it.
In some instances, the new information rolls off your back with all of the other data you process each day; other times you can use it to change behaviors, improve performance or enhance business results. A challenge can arise when the feedback seems ill-intentioned, doesn't come with support or direction, completely surprises you, addresses a very sensitive issue, or seems just plain wrong. The resulting impact can include diminished motivation, disillusionment with work and career, anger, increased insecurities or feelings of professional futility.
Some examples of feedback woes I have encountered with clients include the following:
These examples illustrate that regardless of the intention in providing feedback, the consequence of the message may be negative and far-reaching. What's most important is for the individuals on the receiving end of these comments to learn that they have a role in determining how to interpret and even benefit from bad feedback.
The eye-opening perspective that turned the uncomfortable and unwanted feedback process around was this: Feedback is a gift. Imagine it's your birthday and you've just received a beautifully wrapped present from a friend. You open it and it's a sweater. The first thing that you do is pick it up and look at it. Examine the size, color, style. You now have numerous options:
When coaching clients, learn to apply the "Feedback is a Gift" framework to their situation, professional (and personal) satisfaction is greatly enhanced. In the examples mentioned earlier, the IT Professional decided to switch to another department where his strengths are fully utilized and his manager values his interpersonal style. He now enjoys going to work, interacting with his colleagues and he is an asset to his organization. The management consultant celebrated her very positive review and acknowledged that the unplanned meeting cited by her supervisor was both a challenge for her and also a rare occurrence. She sought advice from a more senior colleague and developed a plan in case the situation arose again. And, the artist worked very hard to put his former professor's comments in the back of the closet. He realized that his own vision of creativity was unique, exciting, meaningful and very different from his professor's. As the "voice" quieted, his productivity and enjoyment of his art increased.
When you next receive feedback or constructive criticism, here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate the gift...
Enjoy your gift!