How To Handle & Use Critical Feedback

How to handle and use critical feedback

We put a lot of ourselves into our work—our time, heart, energy and ideas. So when we get critical feedback on things we need to work on, it doesn't feel great. Our first reaction might be defensiveness, anger or straight up sadness. As someone who's both gotten and given constructive criticism, it's not an easy conversation for anyone on either side. This week, we're focusing on methods to make receiving critical feedback easier, and to use it more productively.

BEFORE
Remind yourself that critical feedback will make you better. Managers and coworkers gather feedback because it gives us a roadmap to becoming our best selves at work. Without it, we wouldn't be able to improve as team members, or grow as people. So instead of going in fearful of whether you'll hear something negative, go in confidently knowing that even if that happens, it's okay. It'll make you better. 

Before your review, take some time to self-reflect on things you've done well and areas you could improve on. Critical feedback is worst when it takes you by surprise, so be honest with yourself to anticipate feedback you might get. This exercise is also a good way to ensure that you and your manager are on the same page.

Self reflect before your review

DURING
Celebrate the positive feedback you receive. It's easy to focus only on the constructive criticism, but tough feedback doesn't negate the things you've done well. Take any praise to heart—let it bolster your confidence and fuel you during the review.

Focus on the solution. It's easy to think back to the past and see things in a different light when we hear critical feedback (wait, that project didn't go as well as I thought?). And while it's important to understand what you've done, focus your emotional energy on what's ahead: the challenge to improve on something. Ask questions so you're clear on what needs to change, and use the review to brainstorm action items to work on. 

Focus on the challenge ahead

AFTER
Take time to process the feedback—even after all that mental preparation, our emotions can cloud the way we think about how to handle it. Schedule a quick follow-up meeting with your manager to show that you've digested the feedback and are approaching it with a positive attitude. Keep any action items on a notecard on your desk as a reminder. Usually the things we have to work on aren't one-time solves—it takes constant awareness over time. 

Critical feedback isn't easy to hear, but with these tips in mind, performance reviews can become meetings you'll look forward to. When you think of critical feedback as the catalyst to a better you, you'll welcome it, undaunted and ready to react.

Head up, you're doing great,
Natalie