How to Handle Your Boss' Negative Feedback (even if you disagree)

Amy was dreading her performance review.  She’d just be in the job a year, and her interactions with her imperfect boss were becoming more tense and intense with each passing month. The truth was, she questioned his approach to running the department, and he wasn’t listening to her ideas. She didn’t love his suggestions, and often reacted defensively to his feedback, making matters worse. She figured all the crap from those interactions would show up in a one-sided performance synopsis she’d have to defend, but didn’t know how.

She was grinning when she told me how it went.

“Well I had my performance review today, and the feedback was about as I expected. But, instead of reacting, I listened, thanked him, and asked for specific suggestions on how I could improve. I also had a list of things I’ve been working on in areas we’ve been talking about and I asked him for his help. I think he was shocked.”

Well played.

She went on to share:

“I think he had been bracing for my defensive reaction, but when I showed I was truly listening, his whole demeanor changed. It took every ounce of energy I had to not bring out the list of stupid things he’s doing wrong, but I decided it wasn’t a matter of being right, it was about improvement. Plus, some of what he said was true. I did have areas I could improve so why not start there? My listening seemed to change his approach to me, he started to act like a boss I could deal with.”

Game on.

A Few Tips For Handling Negative Feedback

1. You don’t have to respond in-depth right away

“I hear you. Thank you. Let me think about that” is enough, particularly if you’re really ticked off.

2. Listen Deeply

Knowing that you don’t have to respond immediately provides immense freedom to focus  your energy to listen well. Take notes. Ask for clarifying examples.

3. Consider

Sure there are always two sides to every story. But open your mind to where your boss is coming from. Even if he’s full of flaws, his perspective likely contains some nuggets of truth. Don’t throw out the potentially useful feedback with the proverbial bathwater.

4. Look For Patterns

Where have you heard similar feedback before? From whom? Does he sound just like your mom? Your ex-lover? Just saying.

5. Solicit Additional Feedback

Don’t start with “My boss said this… what do you think? He’s an idiot, right?” But do ask around without mentioning him at all. Seek to understand if others have a similiar impression.

6. If It’s BS. Let It Go

In my career I’ve been very deliberate in completely blowing off stupid feedback from time to time. I’ve known other successful people who’ve done the same. If you’re blowing it off from multiple people from multiple directions, you might want to pause some more. But if you’re getting icky feedback from one guy (or gal), and you’ve sought hard to understand, it may just be time to respectfully let it go. Yup, there’s a song for that 😉 The Frozen soundtrack works wonders with the windows rolled up.

How to Handle Your Boss’ Negative Feedback (even if you disagree)

Amy was dreading her performance review.  She’d just be in the job a year, and her interactions with her imperfect boss were becoming more tense and intense with each passing month. The truth was, she questioned his approach to running the department, and he wasn’t listening to her ideas. She didn’t love his suggestions, and often reacted defensively to his feedback, making matters worse. She figured all the crap from those interactions would show up in a one-sided performance synopsis she’d have to defend, but didn’t know how.

She was grinning when she told me how it went.

“Well I had my performance review today, and the feedback was about as I expected. But, instead of reacting, I listened, thanked him, and asked for specific suggestions on how I could improve. I also had a list of things I’ve been working on in areas we’ve been talking about and I asked him for his help. I think he was shocked.”

Well played.

She went on to share:

“I think he had been bracing for my defensive reaction, but when I showed I was truly listening, his whole demeanor changed. It took every ounce of energy I had to not bring out the list of stupid things he’s doing wrong, but I decided it wasn’t a matter of being right, it was about improvement. Plus, some of what he said was true. I did have areas I could improve so why not start there? My listening seemed to change his approach to me, he started to act like a boss I could deal with.”

Game on.

A Few Tips For Handling Negative Feedback

1. You don’t have to respond in-depth right away

“I hear you. Thank you. Let me think about that” is enough, particularly if you’re really ticked off.

2. Listen Deeply

Knowing that you don’t have to respond immediately provides immense freedom to focus  your energy to listen well. Take notes. Ask for clarifying examples.

3. Consider

Sure there are always two sides to every story. But open your mind to where your boss is coming from. Even if he’s full of flaws, his perspective likely contains some nuggets of truth. Don’t throw out the potentially useful feedback with the proverbial bathwater.

4. Look For Patterns

Where have you heard similar feedback before? From whom? Does he sound just like your mom? Your ex-lover? Just saying.

5. Solicit Additional Feedback

Don’t start with “My boss said this… what do you think? He’s an idiot, right?” But do ask around without mentioning him at all. Seek to understand if others have a similiar impression.

6. If It’s BS. Let It Go

In my career I’ve been very deliberate in completely blowing off stupid feedback from time to time. I’ve known other successful people who’ve done the same. If you’re blowing it off from multiple people from multiple directions, you might want to pause some more. But if you’re getting icky feedback from one guy (or gal), and you’ve sought hard to understand, it may just be time to respectfully let it go. Yup, there’s a song for that 😉 The Frozen soundtrack works wonders with the windows rolled up.

How Well Do You Manage Up? A Challenge and Other Tools

The conversation about Imperfect Bosses continues. Today, I’m exited to bring you several additional resources, including a free knowledge assessment. I hope you will share this with anyone having a challenging relationship with their boss.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss Credspark Challenge:

How well do you manage up? How are you handling a difficult boss? Why does it all matter? Take this challenge to find out. The most useful part is clicking on the learn more links at the end to take you to additional free resources. Let me know what you think and please pass along. I want to help as many people as possible. Click here to take the challenge.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss podcast on Work That Matters:

In this live interview we delve deeper into some of the concepts and stories discussed in the book. Click here to hear the podcast.

How to deal with an accidental diminisher boss:

And for those who just like to read, check out my 4 Needed Shifts in the Traditional Boss Subordinate Relationship:

From Mystery To Transparency: Your team will follow your lead. If you won’t share what’s on your heart and mind neither will they. You’re wasting valuable time with all that guessing. Take some risks and let your team in. Share more of the bigger picture than feels “safe.” There’s no better way to get people to trust you, than to trust them. Click here to read more.

And Wally Bock – learning about writing a book from Overcoming An Imperfect Boss:

Karin Hurt is a newly minted entrepreneur. She wrote Overcoming an Imperfect Boss because “I wanted to be able to have something tangible to weave into the PR of the launch of my new company.” If you’re thinking about writing a book, you can learn a lot from what Karin did right. You may read more here.

Happy Memorial Day. That should give you enough to keep you busy. Still got time? Download a free sample chapter or just order a copy from Amazon.

Namaste.

More Secrets To A Great Relationship With Your Boss

When it comes to developing a great relationship with a boss, most of us can use all the help we can get. You have more power than you think.

I’ve been having a blast talking with leaders and writers on tips for creating a great relationship with your boss.

Their questions are challenging and ideas robust.

Today I share excerpts and insights from a few of these conversations.

If you haven’t yet seen my book, download a free chapter here.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss

Interview With JJ Jarell – The Business of People in Leadership

Let’s start the talk with a podcast from JJ Jarell:

    • Karin shares her most embarrassing moment
    • Karin’s most awesome (and worst) boss
    • Document your own accomplishments
    • Getting your boss to trust you
    • Working with a disengaged boss
    • Broadening your network – turning to people who can help you

 Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss

Interview with Moe Abdou, 33 Voicesmoe-abdou

As a leader build your subordinate relationships with these R.E.A.L. principles:

  • Results:  Focus and measure results
  • Energy:  Make it energizing and personal
  • Authentic:  Invite candor and authenticity
  • Learning:  Make it about constant learning

Listen to the podcast or download the inspirational moments slideshow here.

How to Transform a Relationship with a Bad Boss

Interview with Leadership Freak – Dan Rockwell

Be careful that you don’t become like the bad boss. Bad bosses often teach us who not to be. Bad bosses are:

  • Unproductive – They run update meetings rather than collaboration meetings.
  • Demeaning – They treat people above them differently from people below them.
  • Closed – They’re not open to feedback.
  • Short-sighted – They don’t invest in development.
  • Confused – They have unclear vision and cause rework.
  • Wasteful – They waste people’s time.
  • Disrespectful – Common courtesy goes a long way to solving tensions.
  • Disorganized – No explanation necessary.
  • Indulgent – They think they’re above others and take special treatment.
  • Self-Centered – Their career is Their ultimate concern.

Become a great boss or employee by becoming the opposite of an imperfect boss. Dan challenged me by asking: “You’re telling me all about the wonderful bosses who supported you in your career what was it about you that made them invest so deeply.”

Questions like that sure make you think. I’ll ask you the same question. Worth closing your eyes and making a list. Read more and listen to interview excerpts at Leadership Freak.

Q&A With Karin Hurt: Overcoming An Imperfect Boss

Interview with ASTD – Julie Winkle Giulioni

Question: Have you learned more from good or bad bosses? Which do you think are more powerful teachers for most people?

Answer: Bad, hands down. If we can get past the frustration and allow the learning to seep in, bad boss behavior teaches us what not to do at a deep emotional level. We are more empathetic to the impact we’re having on others. Also, paying attention to your reaction teaches you to manage your own emotions and stress.

Read the full interview at ASTD.org.

6 Proven Ways To Work With A Bad Boss

Interview with Inc. Magazine – Peter Economy

Dislike your boss? You’re not alone.

According to research on the topic, three out of four employees say that dealing with their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job. Two-thirds say they would happily take a new boss over a pay raise.

According to Karin Hurt, author of Overcoming An Imperfect Boss, “The secret to a healthy boss-subordinate relationship is to remember that it’s just that, a relationship. You’re two messy human beings doing the best you can.”

Read more at Inc.com

How to Manage an Imperfect Boss

Interview With Susan Adams – Forbes

Question: What if your boss is a jerk?

Answer: “The most important thing is not to become a jerk yourself,” says Hurt. She recalls a boss who periodically lost her composure and blamed her direct reports for her mistakes.

Hurt and three colleagues got together and initiated individual conferences with the boss. “First we said: something is not right and we want to help you.” Hurt recalls, “I told her how her behaviors were impacting me and I said: I must be doing something wrong.”

The boss wound up confessing that she was feeling undue pressure and acknowledging that she was taking it out on others. The lessons Hurt learned from this encounter: do not point fingers. Instead, describe how the boss’s behavior is impacting you and volunteer to share the responsibility.

Read more at Forbes.com.

There is No Such Thing as an Ideal Leader

People Equation – Jennifer Miller

The humanity of leadership is a key theme in Karin’s book. She says that one of the reasons she wrote the book is to help people understand that leadership isn’t about achieving an unobtainable level of perfection In the end, my very-human leader did me a huge favor.

It’s tough living up to a superhuman standard. Had I not seen that even the best–of–the–best sometimes do things that cause upset, I may have not been willing to step up to lead when the time came. Read more at People-Equation.com.

Important Note For Subscribers

I am working on enhancing my website and will be doing a migration this weekend. I will not be posting on Friday. We’ll be back new and improved next week.

Already read Overcoming An Imperfect Boss? Tell us what you think by leaving a review on Amazon.

13 Stupid Sentences That Will Derail Your Career

I wish HR would teach a course on the really stupid sentences people say at work. Oh, I’m not talking about he obvious stupidity: “you look hot in that dress” or “hey baby”. There’s training and rules for that. But there’s no code of conduct to protect against the stupid, dis-empowering words I often hear up, down and sideways.

Before writing this post, I decided to do an informal stupid sentence poll through social media. The responses fell into two big categories: Stupid sentences that deny accountability and stupid sentences that prove you are clueless. I’ll start; you add to the lists.

Stupid Sentences That Deny Accountability

  1. That’s Not My Job (#1 by a landslide) – Although we all know this, someone is still out there saying it. Stop it, it’s stupid. Instead, help all you can.
  2. That Decision’s Above My Pay Grade – The really wacky part of this one, is that I hear it most often at the higher levels of the business. Please, please don’t say this. And whatever you do, don’t say it to someone at a lower pay grade than you. They count on you to advocate for what’s right, not shrug your shoulders and roll over.
  3. I Wasn’t Aware – This one is commonly used to throw someone else under the bus. Trust me, you look like an idiot. “Let me find out more”, “I’m digging in”, and “I’m here to help” are all acceptable replacement statements.
  4. My Team really Screwed This Up – No one really says this do they? From my experience and the poll, yes. Sometimes out loud; sometimes by just being silent. Own your team’s mistakes and help them fix them and learn. There’s no better way to gain credibility up and down the chain.
  5. I Can Always Get Another Job At Twice The Pay Some Place Else – Okay, if that’s really true, and you’re disgruntled with the rest of the scene to say that out loud. Just saying. Be careful.
  6. I Just Don’t Have Enough Time To Do That – If it’s not a priority say that. If it’s important discuss what else could move.
  7. It’s Not My Fault, It’s The Other Department’s Mistake – Let’s assume that’s true. Taking the high-road would look like ________________? Who and how would that help?
  8. Stupid Sentences That Prove You’re Clueless

  9. That’s A Stupid Question – As much as I want to throw up every time someone says there are no stupid questions, the truth is leaders keep saying that because other leaders are out there making people feel stupid. Stop it.
  10. What’s Wrong With Them – If your team’s not performing, the problem starts with you, not them. Could be selection, systems, rules, leadership. Figure it out, reverse the direction of your finger-pointing.
  11. That’ll Never Work – If I had a nickel for every time my team proved me wrong or I proved someone wrong, the truth is that just because it didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it won’t work now. Put away old biases and really listen. Consider a pilot or some other form of toe-dipping. Most importantly, be a receptive and encouraging leader.
  12. That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It – We get that. Now be a leader.
  13. The Employees Need To Realize They Are Lucky To Have Jobs In This Economy – Okay, so grateful (and without choices) that they _____________. I know you’re not saying these things, but research has shown many someones are.

Thanks to the folks at Lead Change and Twitter for weighing in.

In Other News…

bookcoverI was delighted to have been interviewed about my new book, Overcoming An Imperfect Boss on the powerful podcast: The Business of People In Leadership. Amazed at the stories he got out of me including my most embarrassing leadership moment. Click here to hear the podcast.

Want to know more about the book? Click here to download a sample chapter.

Already read it? I would love to see your review on Amazon.