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Handling the Gift of Negative Feedback

, | April 9, 2024

by MOR Associates

Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Erika Shoffner, MOR Associates Facilitator and Coach.  Erika may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

When was the last time you genuinely embraced a compliment or took pride in a job well done? Conversely, when did you last find yourself consumed by feedback or a setback, unable to shake its hold on your thoughts?

If you’re anything like me, you often dwell on feedback or fixate on deviations from your meticulously laid plans. It’s astonishing how even a single negative comment can overshadow a plethora of positive ones.

I came across a poignant video depicting a woman with two empty candy jars placed before her. As compliments about her qualities and accomplishments were voiced, colorful candies cascaded into one jar, gradually filling it. With each affirmation, the jar swelled until it brimmed with positivity. Then, in a moment of stark contrast, a single voice uttered, “you are not good enough,” and a solitary candy clattered into the other jar. What followed was telling; she recklessly discarded the jar overflowing with compliments, its contents scattering across the floor, and clutched onto the jar containing the solitary negative remark, cradling it as she walked away.

This video, though simple, left a lasting impact.

Recently, I embarked on coaching sessions with emerging leaders commencing their MOR journey, and I’m deeply grateful for their participation and insightful discussions. However, during our sessions, when we review their 360-degree reports, I’ve noticed a recurring pattern: many individuals fixate on one perceived “negative” comment or struggle to disengage from a particular rating. While the 360 report serves as just one tool within the MOR framework, intended to guide rather than define, participants often wrestle with self-reflection and validation of their strengths, opting instead to dwell on perceived shortcomings.

So, how do you navigate this tendency to dwell on the negative instead of embracing the positive?

From personal experience, I’ve discovered three strategies that prove effective:

  1. Reflection: It’s crucial to delve deeper into why a particular comment or critique holds such sway over your thoughts. Understanding the underlying reasons behind its impact can facilitate a more constructive response.
  2. Seeking Support: Whether confiding in trusted friends or mentors or seeking guidance from a coach, verbalizing your concerns can provide much-needed perspective and relief from internalized pressures.
  3. Journaling and Release: Sometimes, articulating your emotions through writing can be cathartic. Writing down your thoughts, emotions, and the context surrounding the feedback can help you process it more effectively. Afterward, take a step back, engage in self-care activities, and reassess your feelings with a fresh perspective. If the feedback still resonates, consider the previous two steps; if not, discard the note and move forward, embracing all feedback as a gift!

Keep in mind that MOR suggests you invest 60% or more of your energy and effort in improving your strengths. Having had your strengths validated by the 360, don’t let the critical feedback overshadow this. For sure, all of us can improve in areas that may warrant some new practice to help us get better as well.

Which have you found most helpful in embracing the positive instead of dwelling on the negative?

Last week we asked about the intersection of a managerial role and desire for that role.

  • 38% are in a managerial role and also thought at some point that they didn’t want it.
  • 36% are in a managerial role and never doubted wanting it.
  • 14% are individual contributors and don’t want to be in a managerial role.
  • 12% are individual contributors and want to be in a managerial role.

First, these results give an interesting demographic on our readership: 74% of respondents are in managerial roles, and 26% are in individual contributor roles. As for wanting a managerial role, slightly more (38%) in managerial roles at some point doubted wanting it vs. never doubting (36%). It is a healthy practice to question what we want, think through it from multiple perspectives, and ultimately decide. It is also very healthy to strive for more as well as find places where we are content and want to stay for some time.