Feedback – It’s not a dirty word

Constructive feedback for most can be one of the hardest things to accept, I still struggle with it. Who wants to be told what we need to improve on? In an ideal world it would be great if we could be lavished with praise and be told what we want to hear, but how do we ever grow or gain further skills to accomplish what we want to achieve?

Whether you are an individual or running a business you are going to receive some form of constructive feedback, and receiving it for the first time can be painful depending on how you perceive it.

When I was younger I had this aspiration that I would work on cruise ships as a bartender. I had this image in my head of a job filled with fun, travel and luxury. So with very limited experience under my belt I applied for every cruise ship company I could find. No response. So I decided to complete a Cert IV in Hospitality, gain all of my qualifications and then try again. I started off working in ‘family’ restaurants and I soon realised I lacked any talent when it came to bartending.

I was also made aware of the fact that my style of service was a bit more formal and suited a ‘fine dining’ atmosphere. When my manager would say that to me I didn’t know how to take it. Was I not good enough in my current role? Did I not fit the criteria that they needed? I was trying my hardest so why wasn’t I suitable?

So what became of this?

My teacher at TAFE had a connection to the HR Manager at the Hilton Hotel, I went for an interview with them twice and before I knew it I was working for their Event Operations team looking after a more ‘fine dining’ approach for their gala dinners and conferences. And I really enjoyed it. So in a sense, the feedback provided was correct, I just didn’t see it at the time.

Constructive feedback can trigger a number of reactions, and you may be familiar with some of the ones below:

  • Hostility/Resistance/Denial—Employees attack your credibility and the facts in the review. Employees do not acknowledge the issue, deny that the incidents took place, or downplay the impact of their actions.
  • Indifference—Employees react to the feedback in an apathetic manner and do not fully commit to doing things differently.
  • Lack of Confidence/Self Pity—Employees are uncertain in their abilities to succeed or are risk-averse.
  • Responsibility Skirting—Employees may acknowledge the negative feedback but may play the ‘blame game,’ indirectly implying that they will not change.S
  • hock/Anger—Employees become angry and say things impulsively or react in an emotional way

Now that I work at a recruitment company I get to experience first-hand how difficult it can be for consultants to relay constructive feedback to applicants that may not have made it to the second round of the interview process. It can be devastating to deliver that news to someone but it is also important that we provide this constructive feedback so that individuals can better prepare themselves in the future.

When it comes to receiving constructive feedback there are some important steps you can take to fully understand what is being delivered to you so that you can get the best out of that experience:

Listen carefully to what is being said to you.

  • Be sure that you understand the feedback. Summarise or restate the feedback for the other person to be sure there are no misunderstandings.
  • Take notes so you can review everything that was said at a later time.
  • Control your feelings and try not be defensive.
  • Ask for examples to clarify the feedback and put it into context.
  • Decide what to do with the feedback: listen and change; listen and gather more information; listen and ignore.
  • Consider your other experiences – have you been given similar feedback before? Does it fit a pattern? Is it time to change?
  • Check with others – did other people involved in the incident or project have the same feelings about your efforts?

Listening was the first point as it can often be hard to do once your emotions set in or if you go into ‘defence mode’. This however, can save many misunderstandings and even teach you things about yourself that you didn’t even realise. You also need to show that you are open to receiving feedback as well. The includes body language and your attitude at the time, if you appear ‘closed’ then it will be harder for your manager or the person delivering the feedback to be open and honest with you. Trust me, it is really important to have people in your life that can deliver feedback openly and honestly to you, even if you find it difficult to accept at the time.

And just remember, all of the managers and individuals that you look up to have at some stage received constructive feedback too. The important thing is what you make of it and where you let it take you.