How to Respond when Receiving Constructive (or negative) Feedback

Your Line Manager sits you own in a one to one appraisal meeting.

They tell you your targets have been achieved and your delivery has been marked as “outstanding”.

“Unfortunately however”, they say, “you have received negative feedback from colleagues saying you are difficult to work with and have been marked down on communication, collaboration skills and team work.”

How you can respond when someone gives you negative / constructive feedback?

1. Become curious about the specifics of the feedback: if you don’t know what to say in the moment as your mind is frozen, just say: “can you please tell me more aboutwhat you mean when you say I am “prickly”: what was it specifically that I said/did?”. Ask lots of questions about the situation to understand the specific example/situation as much as possible. You will be surprised how many times the negative feedback comes from a lack of understanding of the specifics / lack of clear communication.

(If you feel yourself getting angry or defensive, ask more questions about the situation / example, or if the feeling of anger or defensiveness is overbearing say: “I appreciate your honesty and I can feel myself getting emotional, would you mind if we reconvened in 30 min? I need a break to clear my head so I’m able to process this objectively.”)

2. Unless they ask you to explain yourself, why are you explaining what / why it happened? They are most likely not in the frame of mind to listen to your explanation anyway. You can ask them: ”Would you like an explanation as to why I did it this way?” or“Would you like an explanation as to why I said X, or would this not be helpful at this stage?”

3. If you don’t receive constructive feedback as to what they would have preferred you to do/say instead, ask: “What would you have preferred I did/said instead?” or“What would have been more helpful I did / said instead?

4. You could end with: “Thank you very much for being so open and honest with me about your feedback. I will look into XYZ and come back to you with feedback as to what I have done about it.”

Here is a longer article on how to respond when receiving negative feedback. Here is an article on how to give constructive feedback (that is not a “s**t sandwich”). Here is an quick tool on active listening.



Adelina Chalmers a.k.a The Geek Whisperer

Helps Engineers who are Leaders (CEO/ CTO/ VP) get buy-in from their peers/teams/investors by transforming Communication techniques into Algorithms