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How to Handle Negative Feedback

Feedback at work is valuable  to encourage certain behaviors and let us know when we are doing a great job. Unfortunately, not all feedback is positive and criticism is an inevitable confrontation we will face at work. How we handle it will demonstrate our ability to handle pressure and come up with solutions to problems. More importantly, constructive criticism will help address weakness to allow us to develop and progress in our job. Here are four tips to deal with negative feedback at work:

Stay calm

It is important to stay calm and do not let your emotions get the better of you. When you are emotionally involved, it is easy to confuse the constructive feedback as a personal attack. The person delivering the feedback may be emotionally charged. You need to remain calm, take a few deep breathes and listen to what is being said. If you are caught off guard or feel that you are too upset to respond, thank the person for their thoughts and tell them you will be back to them once you have time to think about what they have said and come up with a solution. If you are being delivered negative feedback during an appraisal, remember that the criticism is constructive and is to help your personal growth.


Listen to what is being said without interruption. Once you have digested the information, ask for specific examples of the negative performance/behaviors that they are referring to.  Also, ask for behaviors that they would like to see more of.

Do not take it personally

It is important to not take what is said personally. If you are receiving criticism in the workplace, it is likely to be from a superior who is identifying your weaknesses as they see potential and want to help you develop. If you are receiving criticism because of someone’s bad day, then consider the source. Think about what was said and why it was said. If it was constructive criticism aimed at addressing a weakness to benefit you long term, take it as valuable advice. If it is destructive criticism aimed at bring you down, shake it off, think positive thoughts and do not retaliate.

Do not get defensive

Nobody likes to hear criticism even when it is constructive and it is easy to become defensive to protect your emotions. Do not act in a way or say something that you may regret later. You do not have to agree with what is being said but do not say this out loud without having time to reflect on the conversation. Once you have collected your thoughts and have calmed down, and still feel that what was being said is unjustified, ask for a further meeting to explain in detail the specific behaviors. You need to be completely clear on what expectations you are not meeting with your superiors or the behaviors will continue to be repeated. It is okay to not agree with every point addressed in a meeting but spend time thinking it through first.

Do not retaliate

When we are upset, we often want to talk to or friends and seek advice. That is fine but do not get involved in office gossip or make negative comments about your management that you cannot take back. You never know who can hear and pass that information on.

Avoid taking your frustrations out on social media. Your Facebook account may not be as private as you think and once something is published, it can be permanently public. Blasting jobs and management on social media is very unprofessional and can be detrimental to your future career.

The most important step to take after receiving criticism is moving on. We cannot dwell on every negative knock back but use what was being said as a chance to grow and develop.

For more hints and tips for employees, check out our resources.

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