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Stephen Crowe

Managing Director

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appraisal

No one likes receiving negative feedback! It can be a difficult pill to swallow even when posed in a constructive manner and when justified. We all receive negative feedback now and again be that in the form of an annual performance review, at the end of project or following a particular piece of work or incident.
While our natural tendency is often to focus our attention on all things negative and gloss over any positive and encouraging feedback, it is important to give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done when we receive compliments from our peers and leaders.

Likewise, we must acknowledge any negative feedback we receive and use it to help us perform better in the future. While it may be easier said than done, the way we deal with negative criticism can set us apart from our peers. Instead of dwelling on negative comments and letting them impact our attitude and performance, we should take ownership of any constructive criticism we receive and use it as an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

Make the best of constructive criticism the next time you receive it by following our advice below.

Acknowledge it

In the first instance, you should acknowledge the individual or individuals who provided you with the feedback. It takes courage to provide negative feedback and in addition it can be time consuming to deliver. Show you appreciate their efforts!

Listen & Understand

Is the feedback accurate?

When deciding what weight to give to negative feedback it’s best to first consider if the comments are accurate. Are the comments based on fact or opinion? Perhaps they stem from some factual misunderstanding that is easily explained. Or perhaps they are the opinion of one lone voice in amongst a sea of positive feedback.

What are the motivations for providing it?

In most cases constructive criticism is delivered with the best of intentions but now and again you may receive feedback that you feel has a malicious intent or an ulterior motive. In these cases, it is still advisable to hear the person out however you can choose the weight you attribute to it.

Don’t just hear – listen!

It is easy to make a token gesture of hearing out a piece of negative feedback however to really learn from it we must truly listen to what is being said. Try not to get defensive! When we get defensive we tend to get distracted by arguing our case rather than focusing on the truth of what is being said. Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to listen and ask for time to consider your response.

Take some time

Constructive feedback delivered in a meeting or in a one on one session may come as a surprise if we aren’t expecting it. In such instances it is probably best to hear the feedback and ask for some time to think it over. This way you can avoid any heated arguments if you disagree with the comments. You can also take some time to evaluate what was said and process how you will deal with it rather than responding in the heat of the moment.

Plan your response

Once you have digested the feedback it’s up to you to decide the best course of action. If the criticism is something that could adversely impact your promotion and career potential if unaddressed, then it’s best you take the comments seriously and plan the steps you will take to deal with it. Perhaps this will mean additional training, taking a new approach to a task or handling a relationship with a colleague differently.
It may be worth asking for some examples of the behavior referred to in the feedback? You could also ask the sender for suggestions on how to deal with the points raised.

Learn from it

Having acknowledged the negative feedback and put a plan in place to address any weaknesses, you have really done all that can be expected. Your best course of action therefore is not to dwell on the feedback any longer but view it as means of self-development putting you back on the path to progression.

appraisal

Our Guest Blogger this week is Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess

Challenge Consulting recently facilitated a discussion forum to explore the purpose, value, and practice of performance reviews with a group of Division Managers, Human Resources Managers, Executive Managers, and Business Owners. Our participants began with a view of performance reviews that was decidedly beige, consistent with our recent poll result (68% of respondents rated their performance appraisal as a waste of time), and Samuel Cuthbert’s famous slamming of the performance appraisal.

So why are organisations implementing performance reviews? Our participants described many strategic aims of their annual process, including:

• motivating employees and to help them grow professionally

• developing individual goals to support organisational strategy

• creating an organisational culture of high performance

• helping employees understand their role

• calculating bonuses

• developing training and development plans

• informing succession planning, and

• predicting salary growth. 

With such strategic aims of performance reviews, why are they still seen as a waste of time? Or as Fetzer (2008) put it so nicely – “a review is looked upon as onerous and bureaucratic procedure that wastes time because little, if any, productiveness is achieved during one. It is performed solely as a requirement of the organisation to have a box checked as ‘completed’ and then forgotten for another year.” *

Can the performance review be resurrected to produce the strategic organisational aims it aspires to OR will it remain to be seen as a bureaucratic procedure that wastes time and causes demotivation and low productivity? The consensus across our group was that there was a place for a performance review, but it had to have a clear, measurable purpose, part of a larger performance management process (and not just a once a year check box), and add value at all levels. (Challenge Consulting can help with the implementation of strategic performance review process through our in-house professional development Performance Management Workshops.)

But what about you? As you are about to enter performance review season and sit down with your manager – how can you ensure this process is not a waste of your time? Tiffany Whitby, Challenge Consulting Consultant, recently attended a seminar with Lois Frankel (author of “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” and associated publications) – where she recommended 6 weeks before your performance review to write a summary of your key achievements since your last review and email your manager saying something along the lines of “I know how busy you are and, since I have a performance review coming up, I have put together a list of my achievements since our last review”. (Tiffany will be sharing more of her insights from this seminar in next week’s blog post …)

Last year, I had the opportunity to present at the “Reinvent Your Career Expo” on how to use your performance review to help your career. The performance review can be used as an opportunity to help you manage your career, when you actively participate in the performance review process:

• there is higher consistency between your manager’s and your appraisal of your performance.**

• you are more likely to feel like you have had an active voice and more satisfied with the outcome of your performance appraisal.***

To be an active participant in the appraisal process, prepare for your meeting by considering:

• your key achievements (i.e. feedback you received, KPIs you achieved, new processes that you developed / implemented, or awards you received etc.)

• aspects of your role that you have performed best (i.e. tasks people always ask you for help with, tasks you finish fastest, or that you do without thinking about) – what projects would you like to be involved in the next period of time?

• aspects of your role that you would like to do better (i.e. tasks you need help completing or tasks you tend to put off) – what could help you perform these aspects of your task better – tools / training / change in role?

• What feedback do you want to give your manager to help you to be able to better perform your role?

• Be involved in the goal setting / developmental plan process – what skills do you want to develop in your career?

• Between reviews, bring out your record of your review to review your success towards the plan you made for yourself.

_____________________ 

* Fetzer, J. (2008). Building a professional career: Improving the performance review. Biological and Environmental Reference Materials (BERM 11).

** Williams, J. R. & Johnson, M. A. (2000), Self-Supervisor Agreement: The Influence of Feedback Seeking on the Relationship Between Self and Supervisor Ratings of Performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 30: 275–292. 

*** Cawley, B.D., Keeping, L. M. & Levy, P. E. (1998). Participation in the performance appraisal process and employee reactions: A meta-analytic review of field investigations. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 83(4), Aug 1998, 615-633.