Despite these bold moves by high-profile firms, the year-end evaluation process is far from fading away any time soon. It's still here, and it's likely to stick around for some time. And for many companies, this is the time of year when employees go through the formal performance review process.
Getting positive feedback at work feels great, doesn't it? Positive words about your contributions and professional development over the year leaves you feeling energized, optimistic, and ready to tackle new and bigger challenges. It can bolster the case for your next raise or promotion.
Critical feedback, on the other hand, feels different. Delivered well, it can shed light on your blind spots and surface pockets of potential that you can then focus on and develop.
Delivered the wrong way--or if you take it the wrong way--critical feedback can leave you feeling dejected and demotivated. It can make you doubt whether you'll get the bonus you were expecting, or the next promotion that you've been eyeing.
Yes, critical feedback can hurt sometimes. But there's something worse in my opinion: Not getting any feedback at all.
This could happen for any number of reasons: Managers are too busy meeting performance targets, or maybe they don't care enough to invest the time and energy to properly evaluate their team members.
Let's face it: If you're serious about your professional development, you'll want to know exactly where you need to improve in your role, what skills you need to develop to make those improvements, and what mindsets you might need to change along the way.
Like any skill you want to master, knowing how to constructively deal with critical feedback requires deliberate effort and practice. It's like working out at the gym: If you want to build new muscle, you need to make the micro-tears in your muscle that will make way for the growth of new muscle.
After 25 years of getting--and giving--job feedback, here are a few things I've learned:
A few "Do's" when getting critical feedback.
1. Listen carefully. Make sure you understand exactly what. Ask questions to clarify the nature of the feedback being delivered. Take notes. Think carefully before you respond.
2. Acknowledge the feedback. You may not agree with all aspects of the feedback, but it's important to demonstrate that you've acknowledged the feedback and demonstrate that you're prepared to act on it.
3. Take time to reflect. Performance feedback is often a concise distillation of many weeks or months of work, and it can be hard to fully process the meaning and implications of the feedback in a brief meeting or over a short phone call. Before deciding on any course of action, take time to reflect on the feedback that you've been given.
4. Develop an action plan. Develop a plan of action that will address the areas that were raised, and then share this with the managers who are responsible for evaluating your performance. You can also take this opportunity to update your personal development plan -- the one you don't show your managers -- which will help you plot your next steps in your longer-term professional journey at your current firm (and beyond).
5. Conduct a regular check-in. Since you've shared your action plan with your manager, make sure you proactively check-in from time to time to see whether you are making progress along the key areas that were identified in your feedback session.
Don't wait for the next mid-year or year-end evaluation cycle to do this. Doing it early and frequently will give you more opportunities to take corrective action --and will let you communicate more clearly what improvements you have made since your last feedback session.
...And a few "Don'ts".
1. Don't get defensive. Critical job feedback can put you immediately on the defensive. But don't let that emotion take hold. Keep a cool head and continue the conversation with an open mind and a professional attitude. You don't want to say something you might regret.
2. Don't shoot the messenger. In communicating performance feedback, managers are often both compilers of others' feedback and deliverers of their own. Regardless of whether the feedback is coming from them --or it represents a composite of the feedback she compiled from the five or six colleagues she spoke with about your performance -- don't turn the session into a "you versus your manager" challenge.
3. Don't forget to act on the feedback. The primary aim of job feedback should be to provide you with the information you need to understand where you need to focus your professional development efforts. Be sure to take that information and act on it, and don't just file it away in a memo on your hard drive that you never look at again.
Getting formal -- and informal--job feedback can be a powerful source of insight for improving your near-term job performance while moving you closer toward achieving your longer-term professional goals.
Be sure to get the feedback you need so you have an objective basis for improving your performance in your current job, while giving you the self-awareness you need to plan the next step in your career.