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A senior leader in a meeting told me that feedback is a gift. How can you ever improve if you don’t know where you need to shore up your skills or work habits?

That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten and it has changed the way I think about negative feedback.

Many people get defensive or sad when they’re criticized at work. In many cases, the workplace has no feedback culture in place and people are not trained to give or receive criticism in a constructive manner. Giving and receiving negative feedback constructively takes a LOT of practice! 

The best way to receive negative feedback well is to follow these 7 steps:

  • Listen

Actually hear what’s being said. If necessary, ask questions to make sure you understand the criticism fully.

Here’s an example:

Mercy reiterate what she said so she knows that she was really listening and since her boss likes to teach and is very detail-oriented, she will ask her if she can give her a few tips on how to perform the task better and throw in a few suggestions as well to get her feedback.

she ends the conversation by asking where she is doing well so she can keep up the good work which is her way of helping her to remember where she excels.

This also shows her that out of everything that she does, she’s got few complaints and gives her the confidence to give her more responsibilities.

  • Assume good intentions

Unless proven otherwise, assume good intentions. Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the person criticising you is “out to get you.” Of course, sometimes they are. If so, see below.

  • Do not get defensive and start making excuses

Instead you might say what you’ve learned and what you will do differently from now on.

  • Don’t take it personally

Remember that they’re criticizing your work, not you as a person. Never take negative feedback about your work as a criticism of you as a person.

Remember that all constructive feedback (including negative feedback) is a sign of interest and a sign that people want to help you do better. It would be far worse for people to notice you doing bad work and not say a word.



  • Don’t be too hard on yourself

Remember that everyone makes mistakes and has things to learn. Yes, that includes you. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, but making the same mistakes over and over because you refuse to listen to criticism and learn is just stupid.

  • Say thank you

Thank the person for their feedback.

  • Never put up with attacks in the workplace

However, note that these steps only apply to constructive, well-meant criticism. Unfair and overly negative feedback is also used as a tool by bad managers and workplace bullies to demean and control others.

The wrong kind of criticism can be:

  • Overly negative
  • Personal attacks
  • Unfair criticism for something that is not your fault or outside of your control
  • Delivered in an unpleasant way

Do NOT put up with this kind of attack. If you do it will persist.


Feedback can be a gift

All constructive feedback is valuable because it gives you a chance to improve and learn. Positive feedback is easier and more fun (and sadly undervalued in most workplaces) but negative feedback and criticism can be a fantastic thing as long as we do it right.

In fact, many employees I’ve talked to simply wish for more feedback of any kind. They feel like they work in a vacuum where no one ever notices their efforts, good or bad, and this makes it almost impossible to know whether or not they’re doing good work.

We desperately need feedback – both positive and negative. Tell me what I do well AND tell me what I can do better.

Your take

Have you ever received negative feedback in a way that helped you out? How did you receive it? What are some BAD ways to receive criticism? Do you have a coworker who handles criticism particularly well or badly? How do they do it? Write a comment below – I’d love to hear your take.

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