For many of my clients, this time of year is an important one, because it’s review time. Ideally, you would know what your feedback would be and would be on the same page with your manager about any scores or ratings you will receive. However, for most of us, we will at some point have the unpleasant experience of being surprised by our review. Here are 3 tips to help you get back on track after a surprising review:
1) Realize That Feedback Isn’t Right or Wrong
When we get feedback, most of us tend to decide whether we agree with it or not. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stop thinking about feedback in a binary way of either agreeing or disagreeing with it. Even if feedback is mostly inaccurate or based on bad examples, there’s very likely some nugget of truth in there that can be useful to you. Do what you need to do in the moment to try to capture and understand what the person is saying (for me this involves taking notes so I don’t lose information). Once you’ve had time to calm down from the emotions of the conversation, you can go back and ask for clarification on anything you don’t understand or don’t agree with.
2) Get Multiple Views
Often in the face of critical feedback, it's easy to defend yourself by clarifying what your intentions were or explaining obstacles that got in your way. While these may be valid points, this approach will not help you grow and it will make you sound defensive. Since one person's view may not be the majority view, it's a good idea to ask other people. Don't just go for quantity. Instead, think about who you trust, who knows you well, and who is skilled or experienced in the attribute in question. Then ask for their opinions, and do your best to listen in an open-minded way.
3) Agree on Specific Next Steps
Once you’ve taken the time to understand what you could have done differently, and you’ve verified this with multiple perspectives, the next step is to get in sync with your manager about what you’re going to do about it. The biggest mistake I see in responding to a critical review is that people slink away without getting a clear action plan. This will likely give your manager the impression that you don’t care, and can certainly come across as defensive. It’s even more powerful if you come back to your manager with an action plan, which should include projects or tasks where you can test your development area, and clear way that you will measure your success in these areas.
While getting a tough or surprising review isn’t a pleasant experience, it can be a powerful learning experience and jumping off point for improvement if handled correctly.