In a study conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, 92% of people claimed that negative feedback, “if delivered properly”, is extremely useful in improving performance. Yet, after annual appraisals or periodic reviews, many of us are left wondering how to make sense of the critical inputs we receive or end up receiving similar feedback year after year. The reason: while we acknowledge the importance of such critical inputs, we are often unsure of how to work with them.

Here are some suggestions that could help:

  1. Keep your goals in focus. The feedback you receive should help you level up at your workplace. That’s why coaches Peter Bregman and Howie Jacobson highlight the need to develop energising future outcomes as part of the feedback process. Remind yourself how working on the feedback will bring you closer to your professional goals. If you think the given feedback won’t guide you in this direction, help the person giving you feedback understand this.
  2. Clarify. If you’re unsure about the rationale behind the feedback or how to work with it, ask questions to clarify. This will help you discover specific areas for improvement. You can always take a day or two to mull over the discussion and schedule a meeting with your reviewer later for clarifications. This indicates to your reviewer that you value their views and encourages them to give you feedback with more intent.
  3. Verify. Once you’re clear about the changes expected of you, put it to action and then verify if that’s indeed what was expected. You might think that you’ve got it right, but similar feedback might come your way in the next cycle, indicating a communication gap. In such scenarios, check periodically with your reviewer to ensure that you are on the right track. This also helps you streamline the feedback process and build an open channel of communication with your reviewer, ensuring you get more valuable inputs.

Above all, remember to keep things professional. The entire process of working with feedback requires good communication skills and a lot of empathy. Just as you might feel uneasy receiving negative feedback, your reviewer might find it awkward bringing up critical points. By keeping the review exercise strictly professional and communicating that you are thankful for the effort your reviewer has taken to help you with your professional growth, you can ensure that the process stays balanced and constructive.

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