Written by Steve Hart with Nick Roud Executive Coach – published Saturday 23rd November 2019.
How to take criticism with a smile.
When your manager invites you for a surprise chat you probably aren’t being called in for a pat on the back.
Getting bad news about your performance when you are new to the workforce can be disheartening; but executive coach Nick Roud says employees should listen carefully, comprehend what’s being said, and avoid seeing negative feedback as a personal attack.
“When negative feedback is presented tactfully and constructively it can be as effective as positive feedback, “he says. “But for the person receiving that feedback they’re going to be a bit upset. Rejecting feedback generally means rejecting change.”
Roud says that as an employee it’s often good to just sit and listen; to take it all in and mull it over.
“Listening to what the manager is actually saying and sharing with you. As hard as it seems – it is extremely important you try and keep your emotions in check,” he says.
“Then, it might be good to take all the information away, digest it, and discuss it with people you trust – those who know you really well.”
Roud says it’s not unusual to be left a little emotional if a performance meeting doesn’t go well; “but that could be more down to the manager than the employee”.
“Communication is a two-way street and its important for both parties to listen and try to put a plan in place for moving forwards,” says Roud. “Having a non-emotional mentor or coach may be a way of sounding things out”.
David Trought, a career coach at Auckland’s Clear Path Careers says first and second jobbers are still on a step learning curve in the work place; and while having a qualification is great – there’s a lot more to work than that.
“Just because you’ve got a degree in something doesn’t mean you know everything – you’ve got to learn the way the employer likes things done. They’ve all got their way of doing things.
“The first six weeks can be tough because often new members of staff don’t understand the expectations of the workforce. So they stuff up because there are things going on they are not aware of, like office politics for example. But even if you think you know the specifics, you still need to do it the way the employer want it done.So I think there’s an element of accepting that you are on a learning curve.
“I think where it can get tricky is if you’re in an environment that’s a bit more brutal and management want to see what your made of – will you stand up for yourself or buckle.”
While it may be easy for an employee to dismiss claims of poor workplace performance as unwarranted; Trought says its better to assume there is an issue to be resolved rather than ignore it and think the manage wrong in their assesment.
“So you’ve got to be a little bit careful, especially if you’re new in the job” he says. “So perhaps search out a trusted mentor who might say ‘pull your socks up’. But be careful who you confined in. HR are there to protect the company more than its employees.
“But if it is unwarranted, then you need to start keeping a log of meetings and what’s said. In fact you should actually be keeping a log of your achievements, because if your manager asks ‘what have you been doing?’ you can list them off. Having evidence is always very useful”.
Trough said if a manager is going to raise a serious issue then the employer should be forwarded of the meeting so they can prepare. Otherwise, the manager should keep any impromptu discussions light-hearted and less formal. A good manager would do that just to keep the engagement there.”
Managers are also there to help staff succeed, and plenty of employees forget this.
“If your manager is saying your performance isn’t up to scratch then normally they should be putting a structure in place to actually assist you,”
“So it might be that training is required, or you should be assigned a mentor who has ideally done your job before. So it shouldn’t just be ‘you need to do better’. It should be; ‘how do we actually do something about this to enhance people’s performance?’ A constructive outcome.” Executive coach Roud is big on having an open dialogue; so all parties are heard and their opinions taken into account.
“You have to have a conversation – and that’s a two-way conversation,” he says. “Sometimes its best for a manager to not even talk about work at all and instead concentrate on building the relationship. If a manager beats people with a stick then they will only get resentment.”
Roud says the leader’s role is to give the person as much support as they need and to “speak in a language that they can understand”.
Nick Roud is an Executive Coach and works with leaders of today, leaders of the future and high potential individuals.