Your manager tells you they have heard that you can be difficult to work with on a team.
How do you respond?
1. Seek First to Understand.
Your “golden boy” co-worker never gets questioned about his behavior, so why are you? Anita Tinney, Esq., SVP and Principal Consultant at Employee and Labor Relations Academy, advises keeping this in check because reacting only shuts down the conversation by making your manager defensive. Stay calm and listen. You want to understand why your manager is saying this and reacting won’t help answer that question.
If you don’t want to respond to the feedback immediately, give yourself time by saying, “Thank you for sharing this feedback. I would like to process this information and circle back with you regarding next steps.”
2. Ask Your Manager Specific Questions.
Don’t leave feedback regarding your performance unaddressed. Ask questions so you have full control of your performance narrative.
- Can you share with me who gave you that feedback and the specific circumstance? You may want to find out if one person provided this feedback or if multiple colleagues/clients shared this information.
- What specific behaviors were observed that caused concern?
If your manager responds with concerns about confidentiality, ask the following questions:
- What were the circumstances and the specific behaviors observed?
- Have you ever seen this behavior demonstrated by me?
Tell your manager your goal is to clearly understand what the behavior looks like so you don’t continue to replicate it.
3. Document the Feedback and Implement Your Plan.
After your discussion, send your manager an email thanking them for the feedback and the examples they provided. Be sure to document their feedback.
Next, share your plan for addressing this issue, real or perceived, if you and your manager have not created one. Make sure your manager supports the plan before you implement.
As part of your plan, you can request the following support from your manager:
- For my next two meetings, would you come and monitor the meeting to look for interactions that cause problems?
- Can you share with me if and when you see any of this behavior during our interactions?
Again, you want to make sure you document your solution. Documentation will ensure that you and your manager are aligned on the situation, solution and next steps.
4. Leverage Your Manager’s Support.
If your manager attended your meetings or otherwise continued to help you move forward, ask for their feedback immediately.
- What was their reaction to the meeting they attended?
- Did they see the behavior in question?
- What would they recommend you do differently?
- If they have no recommendations, share with them your suggested next steps and gain their alignment/agreement on this direction.
This will show that you’re dedicated to addressing the issue and also give you insight into how much support you can expect from your manager in the future.
5. Check in frequently.
Engage in frequent and ongoing conversations with your manager regarding your performance (strengths as well as areas for development). Make sure that the plan you instituted was successful and that the issue has been resolved.
Corporate Alley Cat Moves
When faced with negative feedback:
- Seek first to understand.
- Ask your manager specific questions.
- Document the feedback.
- Leverage your manager’s support.
- Check in frequently.
Special thanks to Anita Tinney, Esq. SVP and Principal Consultant at Employee and Labor Relations Academy.
Anita became Principal Consultant at ELRA after twenty-two years in the private sector as an internal consultant in HR, Operations and Employee and Labor Relations. She has had a very successful career in ER/LR at some of the largest Fortune 100 Companies in the world, including Merck & Co., Inc., Johnson & Johnson World Headquarters, Comcast Cable and AmerisourceBergen Corporation. She has extensive experience in all facets of Employee and Labor Relations in both U.S and Global ER/LR.