How To Deal With Difficult Feedback
In the management role, just as in life, you will receive feedback at some points in your career that are not as welcome as other times: this may be because the feedback is something that you really did not want to hear or that it points out weaknesses and developmental arras that you were unaware of.
Feedback that highlights weaknesses or areas of concern can be an emotionally difficult time as it means some soul-searching and tough questioning of ourselves, our motives and our approach to what we are doing.
Tough feedback needs careful handling and in dealing with this we will all go through a process where we come to terms with the information and then use it to make the best of our current situation.
This process can be broken down into four distinct stages:
- Shock: Our initial response to feedback may be shock, or denial of the feedback, especially if what we hear is unexpected or contradicts our own views. When people are experiencing shock, they may say things like, “This report must not be right,” or “What? I don’t understand this report.”
- Anger: As we realise what the feedback means, shock can turn into anger or anxiety, particularly as we see the implications of it. During the anger stage, people may say things like, “Who said this anyway?!” or “This report just doesn’t fit my current situation.”
- Resistance: If feedback indicates the need for change, we may experience a period of resistance. Change can be difficult, or at least uncomfortable. When experiencing resistance, people may say, “That’s just the way I am, take it or leave it,” or “I get it, but I don’t like it.”
- Acceptance: Finally, as we process the feedback, we come to a point of acceptance, which leaves us at a higher place than where we started. When an individual is finally accepting their feedback, you may hear them say, “What can I do to improve?” or “How can I best use this feedback?”
When we receive some critical or unexpected feedback we can find ourselves in a state of shock coupled with the uncomfortable admission that we really should have seen it coming. Anger and disillusionment can continue for some time, days and certainly weeks. Feedback that is challenging can be even harder to take when it is delivered by someone we like and respect.
If you initially respond with anger and shock it is likely that you will ride out the shock and come back stronger!
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