Negative Feedback: How to Handle It and How to Use It

Businessman sitting with a female employee in a conference talking

Are you familiar with feedback yet? You know. When someone like a teacher or a manager tells you what she thinks about your performance or your progress. Sometimes it is called constructive criticism.

Oh yes, now you remember.

If you’re in the academic world, then feedback may be coming from a teacher, a professor, or an advisor. If you’re in the professional world, then feedback is coming from a manager, a mentor, or a colleague. Heck, we might as well throw friends and family members in too.

Feedback, whether positive or negative, is important for development at work or at school.

Getting negative feedback from any of those I mentioned above can be hard to handle. It’s the kind of feedback that results from failed tests, paperwork mistakes, and tardiness to meetings, or missed appointments. That’s just scratching the surface though. Combine that with low vision or blindness, and it can feel much worse.

In my experience, negative feedback was the hardest to accept. I’d feel sorry for myself. I used my failing eyesight as a crutch. The real problem centered on the misunderstanding of negative feedback in my own mind and how it was holding back my career development.

Instead of handling it professionally, I took it personally. Many years would pass before I understood negative feedback had value too. The good news is you can develop your ability to handle and to use negative feedback to drive your career forward.

Here are a few tips to help you out if you feel like I did back then.

Handling Negative Feedback

Two businessmen talking, one facing the camera and the other one facing away from the camera

It’s easy to get angry or flustered when your manager criticizes you about a flaw, an error, or a shortcoming in your job performance. Emotions can run high but maintain your composure and respond as a professional. Try this instead:

  • Be Calm — Before you sit down in your manager’s office, take a few deep breaths and let as much tension melt away as possible. Anxiety tends to show up when a manager asks to speak with you.
  • Be Present — In other words, focus on the moment at hand. Nothing else is as important as this moment for your career. Not even those social media updates!
  • Be Rational — Turn on your critical thinking skills. Do your best to clarify what went wrong or what led to this moment. Engage your manager with polite questions. Seek to understand what caused the problem.
  • Be Grateful — Weird, right? Show your manager some gratitude. Thank her for the feedback. Assure her you will work towards improvement. Finish by asking her if it’s okay to seek further guidance from her later on.

Using Negative Feedback

Now that you have weathered the storm, it’s time to show you’re a professional too. Don’t go back to your desk and hope it never happens again. Instead, do this:

  • Be Brave — Recipients of negative feedback may clam up around their managers or coworkers. Mistakes happen, but don’t allow them to haunt you day after day. Go about your work and be assertive.
  • Be Growth-Minded — Telling yourself you can’t get any better is wrong. Develop a growth mindset instead. We can all improve our skills and our competencies. It takes work though. Sometimes really hard work. That is the essence of a career. Accept this truth and move it forward.
  • Be Resourceful — Lead yourself. Don’t wait for anyone else to solve your problem. Brainstorm some solutions to cut down the risk of errors and to improve your performance.

Negative feedback is hard to hear and hard to accept. At times, I felt like managers didn’t understand me or the difficulties of vision loss. However, the day came when I understood blindness could no longer be the scapegoat for my lagging performance.

Learning how to handle and to use negative feedback changed my outlook for my future. It forced me to be brave, to be growth-minded, and to be resourceful, things that changed the course of my career. I know it can work for you too!

How are you handling and using negative feedback?

Handling Criticism and Feedback on the Job

Constructive Criticism and How to Apply It as an Individual Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

Seeking Success After “Failures” on the Job for Those Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Solutions or Excuses? Which Describes Your Actions As a Job Seeker or Employee Who Is Visually Impaired

Do You Have the Qualities of a Good Employee?