How you respond to negative feedback says a lot about your emotional intelligence.
If you’re serious about getting ahead in your career, it’s important to know how to respond to negative feedback from your boss without being in your feelings.
Getting defensive or making excuses during performance reviews at work will get you nowhere.
Let’s talk about what to do instead. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to respond to negative feedback from your boss.
How to Respond to Negative Feedback from Your Boss
When responding to negative feedback from your boss remember that your body language often speaks louder than your words.
Try to receive constructive criticism in the workplace gracefully with a smile (even if it’s fake) or a relaxed facial expression.
Here are 8 ways to respond to negative feedback from your boss in different situations with samples.
1. When you get a lot of feedback at once
"I really appreciate you taking the time to share this with me. To recap___."
Acknowledge the feedback received by summarizing the key points. Summarizing feedback shows your leader that you’re actively listening.
Be genuinely appreciative of the feedback. Remember your boss could easily keep quiet and set you up to fail.
So always thank your leader for their time and feedback. It shows a high level of emotional intelligence.
2. When you don’t agree with the feedback
“I appreciate you sharing that with me. You bring up some interesting points and I'll definitely take them into consideration.”
This response neither agrees nor disagrees with the feedback. It’s not argumentative, or defensive, nor does it make any false promises.
Don’t make any promises you’re not 100% sure you’ll keep.
For example, if you’re a single mother who can’t participate in after-hours events due to childcare issues.
Don’t promise your boss to volunteer for after-hours work functions until you’ve figured out child care.
Instead, acknowledge the feedback and decide how to respond later.
Don’t feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to everything or disclose too much personal information. As this can backfire later.
3. When your boss is partially responsible for the mistake
"Thanks for bringing this up. Earlier, you suggested I ___. Can you clarify how I should handle ___ moving forward?"
Let’s face it, your boss isn’t always right. And maybe a part of the problem. That said, how you address their mistakes matters.
The last thing you want to do is make your boss feel like you think you’re smarter than they are (even if you are). Use this response to call things out tactfully.
4. When the feedback is vague
"Thank you for the feedback. Can you elaborate on___?"
Occasionally, you’ll get feedback that doesn’t quite add up. When this happens, don’t accept feedback you can’t do anything with.
Encourage your boss to provide more context and examples. Gently probe for information you could use to improve your performance.
5. When you’ve messed up
"Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Moving forward, I'll continue working on ___".
That said, don’t apologize unless you’ve actually made a mistake. Being overly apologetic at work only undermines your authority.
Take steps to improve your performance and keep it moving.
6. When you’re caught off guard
"Thanks for pointing that out. I'll need some time to process this. Can we circle back on this on __?”
Sometimes your boss might give you feedback without notice. In this situation, don’t feel pressured to have a full-blown conversation if you’re not ready to.
Thank them for the feedback and ask for more time to process it. Suggest another time to speak further.
7. When your boss is nitpicking
“Great catch. I’ll make sure to pay attention to those details moving forward.”
Dealing with a micromanager can be annoying. But don’t let it break your confidence. Use this response to handle a nitpicky boss.
However, if you’re getting too much negative feedback at work, it could be a sign of a bigger problem.
8. When you want to get on your manager’s good side
"I'm sure this isn't easy for you either so I want to take a moment to acknowledge that and let you know that I appreciate your feedback."
Being a leader can be a tough job. If you want to get on your manager’s good side, acknowledge that by using this response to bad feedback.
This portrays you as someone who can put yourself in other’s shoes. Which is a good leadership quality. You’re welcome.
Responding to Negative Feedback
Getting negative feedback at work is never easy. But knowing how to respond to it tactfully will bring you one step closer to that promotion.
It has dozens of guides, templates, and checklists to help your leadership journey. Remember to be patient with your evolution.
Over to You
What was the harshest feedback you ever received at work? Let us know in the comments @netwerkmovement. And sharing is caring. Send this to 3 people who need it!