Early in my career, I had a conversation with a boss that I now regret. She began by saying, “I’d like to give you some feedback on your work.” With a list in front of her, she began describing all the things she thought I was doing poorly. He made little eye contact and had a deadpan tone. As he spoke, my heart pounded and I started sweating. I was angry.
The first three were tasks for which I was not responsible; My coworker had those duties. The rest of the feedback was unexpected as it was about deliverables that others described as being of high quality. I’ve been working for him for about a year and he has never once indicated that I was doing anything wrong. Not only did I feel cheated but half of it was completely wrong. While I corrected him on the items that were wrong, I remained silent on other things. I left the meeting disappointed. I decided she was a bad boss, had a grudge, and soon left for graduate school full-time.
Sure, I can blame my manager. His approach to responding was dismal. What I have learned, however, is that we cannot control the abilities of our masters. We can only control our reaction to them. Besides, bosses make mistakes – they’re not perfect. What I regret most, however, is that I didn’t stop to talk about it. I didn’t stand up for myself because I didn’t know how. Instead, I acted on impulse. Speaking up when you get wrong or inappropriate feedback is a skill that anyone can develop. I have, and you can too. here are some tips.
what to say when a boss criticizes your work
Often, the first reaction to hearing feedback is to agree or disagree with it. Do neither Instead, say thank you, even if it’s inappropriate or wrong. Most bosses are uncomfortable giving feedback, and they may be afraid of your response. Saying thank you will help neutralize the feelings for both of you. You also demonstrate a willingness to listen, which shows maturity and professionalism. It might sound like, “Thanks for bringing this to my attention.”
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If you feel your heart skip a beat or have an intense reaction, you can say, “Thank you. Can I have some time to process this?” It’s helpful to give yourself space and time to consider feedback, and it’s even better to show your ability to receive it well.
ask questions and take notes
With cool emotions, it becomes easier to ask questions and communicate. Look for examples and references. Inquire about your manager’s expectations and what about your performance, specifically your work, is not meeting expectations. Get clear on the frequency of the issue. Is this a one-time issue or a recurring pattern of behavior?
The more insight you can gain into your boss’s assessment, the more targeted you can be about addressing it. Also, keep in mind that this is an evaluation of your job performance, not you as a person. Keep your thinking focused towards work. Beating yourself up or feeling hopeless won’t help you move forward.
get more feedback
Your manager’s opinion is a single data point. While this is an important point of view, it is still only one person’s point of view. Get feedback from trusted colleagues to know how important it is. Let’s say your boss thinks you’re always late to meetings, but you disagree. Ask your co-workers. If they agree then you know it’s a big problem. If they don’t, be sure to be on time for every meeting you have with your manager from now on.
It’s about your ability to adapt your behavior to the expectations of others. It is a skill that will serve you well throughout your career.
step into their shoes
Try on some empathy for your supervisor. This is to understand their experience. Do they have a heavy workload? what is the manager like they passed? Are they under a lot of pressure? When he gave you inappropriate feedback, is it possible he was having a bad day?
Giving your boss the benefit of the doubt isn’t just helpful; It is humane. This was my biggest regret in my conversation. I remember my boss was under a lot of pressure, and we all worked long hours. I could have given him more grace, which is to show kindness even though I thought he didn’t deserve it. Instead, I complained.
Be intentional about responding to feedback
This was some advice I got years later: Tell your boss clearly that you’re following up. Let’s say your boss thinks you’re not a team player and communicating well with the team. After working more closely with your teammates, tell your manager. It might look like, “To keep you updated, I met with Alice today to discuss how our work connects. It was a good meeting, and we plan to meet regularly.” Bosses are busy and may forget to pay attention to your efforts. Being specific about your efforts can help.
Expect to get corrective feedback at work. This is information provided for the purpose of improving performance, but at times, it will be wrong or seem inappropriate. How you handle this is an indicator of your ability to maintain positive and productive relationships at work. This reaction will certainly sting, but by keeping your emotions in check, talking about it with your boss and others, and then taking action, you’ll be on the right track to handling these situations effectively.