Feedback: The hardest gift to receive

The year-end review process is the worst, isn’t it?! You sit in front of your boss and they tell you the things that make you great and the things that you can work on. But if you’re like me, you somehow only hear the latter! If you’re lucky, feedback on your performance is given in a constructive and helpful way. But sometimes that’s not the case! But in any case, feedback can often be hard to receive!  The purpose of feedback (when given correctly) should be to challenge who we are and to help us to grow both professionally and personally! Feedback is a gift! And how do you accept a gift? With gratitude!

Here are a couple of tips to help you get through a review when feedback is difficult to hear!

  • If you receive feedback that is difficult to hear, don’t respond right away. We tend to react and defend before we explore.  This seems counter to standing up for yourself and having a strong presence at work, which we advocate for, but sometimes you have to give yourself time to let your heart rate return to normal and the color return to your face (I once had to dig my nails into the chair and bite the inside of my cheek to shut myself up!) In order to give us the time to process, say “thank you” and take some time to reflect alone. Give it time to sink in and for your awareness to kick in as well. But always go back to discuss if you need more clarification or help with turning that feedback into action.
  • Take the meat, but leave the bones. By this I mean to separate the feedback that is useful from feedback that is not. Feedback should also be given constructively and in a way that makes us better, but we cannot always control how it is articulated. Try not to take it personally, separate out the things that can be used for good, and if there are pieces left over that don’t resonate or are not helpful, let that go! This requires awareness! I have gone as far as creating buckets in my mind of “helpful” and “not helpful”.  This can help you to figure out which components are worth pouring your energy into improving.
  • Make sure you have a strong sense of your brand before implementing any feedback that you receive. Your style, your personality, and your influence is a large part of who you are and there’s a chance that the feedback you receive may try to sway you into “becoming” someone different. Early in my career I swayed to feedback that wasn’t in my best interest. But as you learn who you are and who you want to be in your career, you will learn to differentiate between feedback that is meant to grow you and feedback that is meant to change you. Growth should always be the goal.
  •  In case you’re reporting to someone who is just a manager, rather than a leader, here’s a very useful tip: celebrate yourself! If you have to make a list of all of things that you’ve done well and that you’re proud of because your boss doesn’t recognize that, by all means do it! A good leader will tell you what you’re doing well and tell you what you can be doing better. If your manager only tells you that you suck, manage him/her and tell them why you actually don’t suck and how awesome you are (with evidence, of course!)

And just to add a level of vulnerability, it’s okay if you feel awful after you receive feedback. It may make you emotional and shaky…it might also make you want to cry (or punch things…depending on who you are!) but just know that that reaction is normal and also good. Good? Yep, it’s good…because this means it’s hard for you and in order to grow, you have to be challenged. You can’t be challenged by things that are easy. This, ladies, is the gift in feedback!


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