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Building workplace resilience: How embracing negative feedback can be a total career game-changer

It's hardly a secret that we all crave praise at work — to be told we're doing a great job — to be given a pat on the back.

On the flip side, we rarely want to receive critical feedback. In fact, many of us find feedback so tough to take, we find ourselves shedding a few tears in the bathroom at lunch or sending a long, frustrated text to the girl's group chat about what our boss said.

And it seems that our ability to accept negative feedback is diminishing over time. In fact, according to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, many of us have become so anxious about negative feedback, managers have actually begun to call it “feedforward” instead.

The concept is that feedback isn't actually about setting us back — it's about learning, growing, and looking forwards.

While your manager may not be toning down their language around their feedback, the concept is still worth exploring. In a time when we can all become a little too worked up about the idea of getting feedback, it's worth considering: what if our fear of failure is holding us back? What would happen if we learned to embrace feedback and use it to move forwards?

We spoke to Caroline Green, a coach at The Talent Cycle, about why we can all benefit from learning to accept both positive and negative feedback with resilience.

Receiving feedback in 2023 isn’t easy.

Facing the hard truth about your performance isn’t exactly pleasant, so, we tend to avoid it at all costs.

“Often, we shy away from giving and receiving feedback,” says Green. “We fear the difficult conversation and either avoid it till it escalates or go in all guns blazing.”

To make matters worse, recent circumstances have made us even less ready to hear negative criticisms about our work — even when they are presented fairly and kindly.

“The pressures of everything from increased workloads post-pandemic to the cost of living crisis means that people are less able or willing to move on,” Green explains. “They may get stuck and feel less resilient in all aspects including receiving feedback. They may also panic that rather than seeing it as part of their development, that it's a sign they are going to be forced out.”

Added to all of this is the new trend of flexible working. According to Green, receiving feedback over email or Zoom is even harder.

“People may be less resilient to feedback as its harder to read visual clues like body language on a Zoom call,” she says.

Negative feedback can actually be a good thing

Although we are less likely than ever to respond well to feedback at work, it remains crucial.

“Successful work relies on productive relationships and high performing teams,” says Green. “For that to happen, leaders leading with high levels of emotional intelligence (which includes giving and receiving feedback) is crucial. It's the number one skill required for managers right now. And team members also need it as it leads to improved relationships, more innovative approaches and more successful teams.”

Finding your resilience: reframing feedback into “feedforwards”

Becoming more resilient to feedback will be a crucial thing to incorporate into your skill set in the coming years.

The first step is to reframe your perception of what feedback is. ”People need to view feedback as an opportunity to develop and grow and be better and more successful,” suggests Green.

Her suggestion? Learn to actively seek out feedback and welcome it. “The more you seek feedback the easier it becomes and the more resilient you'll be about it,” she says. “It also gives others the opportunity to give feedback (there is as much of an art to giving quality feedback as there is to receiving it) and get better at it.“

Even if you receive feedback that is “bad”, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

“Don't see it as a negative, it's an opportunity to develop and have great conversations,” she says. “Managers should also proactively create an environment of psychological safety which will encourage everyone to be OK with feedback.”

The original article can be found on Vogue UK.

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