Career management

Learn to Take Positive Feedback Well

One of the things I found most surprising when I started my current job, is that I would ask for feedback and people would tell me concrete things that they thought I had done well, and tell me why they appreciated it, or what they thought the impact was.

For comparison, a manager at the conglomerate responded to me asking for feedback along the lines of “don’t worry, I’ll tell you if you’re doing anything wrong.” (And oh! How he did. And oh! How much I disliked him).

I’ve learned instead to say thank you, and talk about why I’m doing that thing, or things I’ve learned doing it.

It also pushed me to consider more how I give feedback, and how I can do it better. Good positive feedback says I see you and I appreciate you. “X was great” is nice. “I saw how you did Y and Z and I think they really contributed to the overall success of X” is better.

We talk about feedback like it’s just negative aka “constructive”. And as a result we can sometimes discount positive feedback like it’s not real, the only real feedback is the “constructive” kind.

But it’s also constructive to know what you are doing well, because we do better when we focus on our strengths.

And when we negate positive feedback, we can project lower confidence, which can – ironically – make it harder for people to give us the constructive feedback we need, because they are afraid of our reaction; they don’t want to hurt out feelings.

If we embrace it with gratitude, we can also take the opportunity to talk about the things that were hard and that we think we could do better, and maybe get some insight.

Or we could just bask in the joy of being appreciated for the hard work we do. That’s fine, too.