A very good suggestion was made by one of the readers in the comments section of my earlier post — “…how to manage the massive bitterness that conjures up when someone tell you that your work sucks and how to identify the genuine feedback with what steps to take to self introspect”
So I thought I’d follow up with some more thoughts on the topic.
I am not an expert in human psychology and human relations. Besides, with matters of human behavior, rarely, perhaps is there one correct final answer. Therefore, I welcome comments and feedback from more astute people to bring more perspectives. With that said, I just imagined someone tell me, “Your Work Sucks”…Now what?
1. Respond, don’t react. My one-time manager and good friend, Greg, liked to say “Respond, don’t react”. A natural reaction to negative feedback is to be defensive. But it would be just that, a reaction. Instead, hold off that instinct, and just pause.
2. Find out more. It is always helpful to have specific feedback and the only way to get it is to ask. It is ok to show that you are surprised by the feedback you are getting. “Really? Tell me more. What specifically could have been done better?” If it is difficult for your manager to give you specifics, give him or her a way out of that situation ;-), but more likely than not, a set of follow up questions would lead to a more productive and engaging conversation.
3. Observe body language. While the words themselves are one thing, the way they are said can speak a lot about where the manager is coming from. Is the mood one of frustration, anger, disappointment, or is it of open candor? Since we talked about Steve Jobs being the kind of manager who dished out harsh feedback in the search for perfection, its apt to see where, at least, Steve felt he was coming from.
“My job is not to be nice to people. My jobs is to make them better.” – Steve Jobs
4. If you think you’re right… then a constructive debate about the topic should not be shied away from. After all, no one is 100% right, 100% of the time, even if that person is Steve Jobs. So assess the situation to see if you have the opportunity to engage in an objective debate, or whether you’d want to “take the feedback” and follow up at the right time to have that conversation. In most situations, it might be best to follow up at a not too later time, with your arguments and influence the manager’s perspective.
I am reminded of Steve Jobs’ interview, where Walt Mossberg asked him, “Do people tell you that you are wrong?” Steve replied, “All the time. You have to let people be governed by ideas, otherwise smart people leave.”
5. Reflect. Once you have the opportunity to be by yourself, reflect on everything – from the topic of work at hand, to your relationship with your manager – to see what takeaways might surface.
Well, those are some high level thoughts. What would you do different or better?