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How to handle feedback you disagree with

Let’s be honest – feedback (even when constructive) is never easy (either to give or receive it). However, when comments are reasonable, you can gain a lot from this difficult discussion. But what if the feedback you get is, in your opinion, wrong and unreasonable?

For example, what happens when your supervisor says that you are not on time for work while you have never been late in your life? Or how do you react when he tells you that he would like to see you taking more initiatives while you can – without even thinking – list at least three recent ones?

You sigh. Feedback always “snaps” a little. But especially if they tell you to improve skills of which you feel proud of, comments become even more outrageous.

What can you do then? Since comments come from your supervisor the question is: do you just have to smile while feeling unkind? Or do you have to insist that you do everything right and look selfish and stubborn?

The situation is undoubtedly difficult. That’s why Workathlon has gathered for you the 4 … lifesaving steps you have to follow the next time your supervisor suggests you an improvement that you disagree with!

1. Ask for examples

Your instinct urges you to support yourself and tell your supervisor how wrong he/she is. But, as in any disagreement, it is smart to put things down and try to get into the other’s position. Usually in such cases there are two scenarios. Your behavior could be misunderstood by your supervisor or (and I know that’s hard to say!) that his/her comment on you really is justified – and you just would not have identified your own shortcomings.

The best way to understand this is to ask your supervisor to give you a specific example that demonstrates the behavior he/she describes. This will help you get a better picture of the source of his/her comments.

What if your supervisor cannot think of any examples? Well, that’s the good case for you! With greater ease, you will make him realize that his/her feedback is invalid – maybe you do not have to do anything altogether.

2. Say Thanks

What do you mean “thanks”? This person points his finger to a defect that you have (but do not think you have) and you thank him?

First of all, suppose he does not make the remark maliciously. Perhaps your manager has actually wrongly valued the situation or unknowingly exaggerated something insignificant.

Either way, remember this: They give you feedback because, as your employer, he/she invests in your growth and wants to see you improve. No matter how wrong it may be, his/her action deserves your gratitude!

After a short “thank you”, you can also stress how much you respect your supervisor’s opinion.

3. Disagree with respect

Now is the point you were expecting since the very beginning – where you can defend yourself and say that you think the feedback you got is unfounded.

Disagreement with your supervisor always provokes nervousness, especially when you run the risk of being simply someone who is not receptive to feedback.

The key here is to present evidence to support your point of view. You must have at least one specific example that contrasts your manager’s positions to ensure that your disagreement is not unreasonable.

4. Ask questions

What happens next will depend on how your supervisor will respond to your immediate disagreement. However, it does not hurt to ask a few questions.

First of all, by asking questions you look more open-minded, as you show that you are willing to engage in a discussion about your perceived behavior.

And, secondly, the questions direct the conversation back to your supervisor, giving him/her room for further comments. This alone proves that you are still open to improve yourself and your work.

To sum up, getting feedback is not the best case – let alone when it is unfounded. However, when you know you are right, you do not have to take these comments way too personally. If you follow the aforementioned four steps, you will succeed in disagreeing in a “revolutionary” way, while courteously and professionally.

Oh! And for employers worrying about how to give feedback to their employees, a detailed article by Workathlon is coming soon!

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