Negative review can be a positive thing

Published: 19 March 2018 By Harvard Business Review

Negative review can be a positive thing

Negative feedback often contradicts the stories that we tell about ourselves

It can be hard to recover from a negative performance review at work. You might feel angry, embarrassed and confused. How do you regain your professional confidence? And how do you make the best use of the critical feedback?

Negative feedback often contradicts the stories that we tell about ourselves – what we’re good at, what we’re capable of – and sometimes confirms our worst fears. But don’t let a negative review unravel the story of who you are.

Here’s how to bounce back:

1. Reflect before you react

It’s tempting to get angry or defensive, especially if you’re accustomed to positive reviews. But take a few days to let the feedback sink in.

2. Look for your blind spots

It’s possible that you may not recognise yourself in the feedback. That’s because, despite our best intentions, there is often a gap between how we see ourselves and the way that others see us. Ask yourself: What might be right about this criticism? Have I heard it before? If after some self-reflection, you still don’t understand the roots of the critique, reach out to colleagues for additional feedback.

3. Ask questions

Once you’ve cooled off, make sure you fully understand the review. That may involve going back to your boss with questions. Make it clear you want concrete examples of what you should be doing differently.

4. Make a performance plan

This may involve learning new skills, re-prioritising your tasks or re-evaluating how you come across to colleagues.

5. Give yourself a second score

Remember that the evaluation may not be fully within your control, but your reaction to it is. Imagine there is a second assessment based on how you respond to the review and give yourself a score for your handling of it. Aim for a great second score, and it will remind you that the negative review is not the end of your professional story.

6. Look at the big picture

Once you’ve taken the time for introspection, you may realise that your lagging performance isn’t a result of a blind spot, but rather an indication that you simply aren’t in the right position. Regardless of whether you stay or move on, use the review as a springboard for change – and for success. –Copyright Harvard Business Review 2014

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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