Is feedback a dirty word to you?

Careers coach Lucinda Harlow says don’t worry, sometimes difficult feedback happens to good people…

AngrywomenFeedback can come in all shapes and sizes. You’re told your management style needs work as you’re too abrupt; you need to tell less, empower more; be less emotional or bossy; have more empathy… all hard to hear, let alone respond to positively.

Feedback can be given out textbook style or rather more brutally. But the upshot is invariably the same. It hurts. It can feel very personal and we can get a bit sniffy about it.

I’ve found there tends to be a fairly common theme when feedback goes wrong. You’re told you need some work in a certain area. Your feathers get ruffled. After a bit of reflection you go all guns blazing and attempt to rectify the situation and change overnight in what you think is a dignified manner.


  • your abrupt approach becomes overly sweet
  • the ‘telling’ becomes a blurry ‘would you mind…’
  • Ms Bossy becomes silent…
  • as for listening, you’re pretty much getting employees to lie on a couch and emote…

Which doesn’t work. You feel you’ve done your best, but it hasn’t helped. So you carry on regardless.

‘Thinking error’ alert…

When we exaggerate the negative – by taking feedback as a personal attack – we fall into a ‘thinking error’.

We respond in an exaggerated way by overcompensating. We swing wildly in the opposite direction. Not surprisingly, this doesn’t give us the change we want.

A better plan…
  • Know what drives the behaviour. If you’re too abrupt, what’s making you respond that way?
  • Buy into the need for change. It’s critical that you accept feedback is coming from a genuine perception of your working style.
  • Check your emotions. Emotions drive decisions so it’s crucial to be honest with yourself about how you feel.
  • Take out the ‘me’. Mentally shift the problem. If someone else was wrestling with this feedback, what would you say to them?
  • Take the long view. How does this episode fit into your bigger career picture?
  • Plan and measure. Keep track of changes and whether they work.
  • One thing at a time. Think in baby steps. Don’t try to change everything at once
  • Accept you are not perfect. Feedback just highlights areas to work on. Your behaviour is not who you are. As my granny used to say: ‘Be perfectly imperfect darlings.’

About the author

Lucinda is an Executive and Corporate Coach. You can reach Lucinda on: uevolve, LinkedIn, Twitter

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