Employees that can’t take negative feedback

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    I have heard this so many times, “I have a few employees that can’t take any negative feedback, do you have any advice?”

    Negative feedback can sometimes be interpreted as criticism or an attempt to find flaws. Another, more positive way to frame negative feedback is to refer to it as “constructive feedback” or “developmental feedback.” These terms emphasize the goal of feedback, which is to help employees improve their performance and achieve their goals, rather than just point out their mistakes or weaknesses. By rephrasing negative feedback as something constructive or helpful, managers and employees can see it as a chance to grow and improve, rather than as something to be afraid of or avoid.

    There are several reasons why some employees may struggle to accept negative feedback:

    Absence of emotional intelligence: The capacity to identify and comprehend one’s own feelings as well as those of others is referred to as “emotional intelligence.” Employees with low emotional intelligence may find it hard to control their own feelings and may respond badly to criticism or be on the defensive.

    Fear of failure: With the pressure, many workers are under today to succeed, they may worry that unfavorable comments may cast doubt on their skills or competency. Because of this worry, employees may find it hard to accept and use constructive criticism in a healthy way.

    Employees may become defensive or resistant to criticism if they believe they are being micromanaged or that everything they do is being watched. They may find it challenging to recognize the usefulness of unfavorable criticism or to draw lessons from it as a result.

    Lack of trust: Employees may be less willing to take unfavorable criticism if they do not trust their manager or supervisor. Trust is needed for strong working relationships and a place where people feel comfortable giving and acting on feedback.

    Taking culture into account, hearing negative comments may be seen as a personal attack or a sign of disdain in some cultures. Workers from these cultures might find it hard to take criticism, and they might need more help and guidance to understand what it means.

    Recognizing that employees are struggling to take negative feedback is an important first step in addressing the issue. Here are some steps that managers and supervisors can take to help employees improve their ability to accept and learn from negative feedback:

    1. Create a culture of trust and openness:
      Employees are more likely to accept feedback when they feel that their manager or supervisor has their best interests in mind. Creating a culture of trust and openness can help to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and receiving feedback.
    2. Provide feedback regularly:
      Regular feedback helps employees to understand how they are performing and what they can do to improve. It also helps to normalize the process of giving and receiving feedback, making it less daunting for employees.
    3. Focus on the behavior, not the person:
      When giving feedback, it’s important to focus on the specific behavior or action that needs to be addressed, rather than making it personal. This can help to reduce defensiveness and make it easier for employees to accept feedback.
    4. Be clear and specific:
      Feedback should be clear and specific, providing concrete examples of what the employee is doing well and what they need to improve. This helps employees to understand what they need to do differently and how they can improve.
    5. Offer support and coaching:
      Employees who are struggling to take negative feedback may benefit from additional support and coaching. This can include one-on-one meetings, training and development opportunities, and mentoring or coaching programs.
    6. Encourage self-reflection:
      Encouraging employees to reflect on their own behavior and performance can help them to better understand the feedback they receive and to develop a growth mindset.

    By taking these steps, managers and supervisors can help employees get better at accepting and learning from negative feedback, which will make the work environment more positive and productive.


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    Martin Rowinski, Boardsi CEO
    Martin Rowinski, Boardsi CEO
    Martin Rowinski is a global technology pioneer, executive recruitment expert, and international speaker with 25 years of c-level experience. He is the co-founder and CEO of Boardsi, a SAAS-based executive recruitment firm. Rowinski created and spearheaded their proprietary software that allows companies to effortlessly search for the most qualified Boards of Directors and Boards of Advisors from a pool of thousands of top executives across the U.S. and internationally. This software also allows executives to find board positions in highly sought-after companies in a simple, easy, and streamlined process. Boardsi specializes in helping companies build executive boards quicker, easier, and more efficiently in order to achieve exponential growth. Boardsi has also been an industry leader in curating a national private network for c-level executives. Rowinski is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, The Corporate Matchmaker, and has been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, FastCompany, NASDAQ, Bloomberg, CEO Today and The Marquis Who's Who (2022 - 2023).