27 Sep 2022

How to deal with negative feedback from a manager

Every employee in every sector will have received some negative feedback from their manager at some point.

But learning to deal with negative feedback and taking on board the comments in a constructive way can be key to improving performance.

An article on the web site Masterclass[i] last year shared some interesting insight on how people can embrace negative feedback which we wanted to share:

Ask questions – It’s important to fully understand the feedback being given, so ask questions to clarify exactly what is meant, especially if your manager is being a bit vague. It can be useful to ask for an example when something wasn’t done well, and to discuss with your manager how you could have done things differently.

Don’t take it personally – It can be easy to take negative feedback personally but remember it’s about actions and behaviour, rather than you as a person.  Don’t let difficult feedback lower your self-confidence because your self-worth isn’t related to someone else’s opinion of you.

Ask for regular feedback – Asking your manager for regular feedback is essential, rather than just receiving it in your annual review or appraisal. Receiving feedback in smaller, more manageable chunks can give you more time to deal with any issues earlier in the year, and it can mean that annual reviews could be more focused on future objective, training and development needs.

Stay calm – Hearing negative feedback can be difficult to process and cause an emotional reaction such as getting angry, upset or defensive. But try to stay focused and remain calm, before reacting. Take a deep breath and take time to process emotions and keep feelings in check. After the feedback process has ended take some time to process what has been said. Also don’t bottle things up. Speak to friends, family or work colleagues and ask for their advice.

Put yourself in your manager’s shoes – It can be a really useful exercise to try and see things from your manager’s perspective. To avoid receiving feedback in a negative way, put yourself in the shoes of your critic. Seeing the situation from a different perspective often helps you realise that what seems acceptable to you may not be to others.

Is the feedback constructive or destructive? – Thinking about the difference afterwards is important and can help you either take it on board or dismiss it. Constructive criticism intends to create positive change, and provides specific suggestions on how to improve, and comes from a place of clear good intentions.

On the other hand, someone who gives destructive criticism might not provide a reason behind their criticism, may have ulterior motives, and may use demeaning language. If your manager doesn’t seem to want to help you in the first place, the bottom line is that it’s probably not worth letting their negative criticism affect your actions.

To conclude

In most cases negative feedback from a manager should probably be re-framed as constructive feedback which can help improve performance in the long run.

All managers want their employees to do well at work and whilst at the time negative feedback may affect morale and dent confidence a little, remembering these tips could help turn it into a positive.

Our suite of HR tools includes employee appraisal software which helps make performance reviews simpler and more effective for both the employer and employee. For more information visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk


[i] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-handle-negative-feedback