How Negative Feed Back Can Advance Your Career

Career Success for Women, Women Leadership Programmes, Speaker for Women, Gender Diversity, Gender Diffference

Cute businesswoman being supervised by her boss at work

Interestingly, women do get different feedback compared to men. Somehow it’s okay to give a woman critical feedback on her personal performance, whereas men get more constructive feed back, often more focused on the job.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t that many of us take that feedback very personally too.

We start doubting ourselves, feel the need to change it, and lose confidence. As a result we adapt and lose part of who we are; our true authenticity. Or we just get bitchy or insecure.

No surprise, there is a better way to handle this. What is surprising is that it isn’t even that tough to bring it into practice once you get the principle.

Why Your Response to Negative Feedback Doesn’t Work

You may think that it’s a great response to take the negative feedback to heart and work on it, so you can improve your performance. But did you know that no matter how hard you work, research shows that you can improve a weakness by 6% only?*

That is entirely different when you work on strength. When you work on a strength you can easily double it by working on it.

Recently I followed an Inspiring Speakers Programme. As a trainer I am constantly in front of groups, so I am already a good speaker, and one of my strengths is that I can break down information in easily digestible chunks, and make it into an engaging training programme. But I wanted to get better and grow from a good speaker to an inspiring one.

I loved doing the programme, and I made a massive improvement in my speaking, and feel confident stating that I am an inspiring speaker now. Just look at me speak in this video, if you doubt me. That’s what happens if you work on your strength.

One of my weaknesses is around building relationships with people; I am just a bit more functional and can’t wait to get straight into the actual content of a meeting. I have been to quite a number of Personal Effectiveness, Influencing, Sales and Communication training programmes over the past 20 years, but I still get very similar feedback.

The only thing that has really worked is to just accept who I am, and find people that don’t mind, or to find ways to connect on content (such as… writing blogs).

How to Use Negative Feedback Instead

The trick is in turning around the feedback, after all: every weakness is a strength too. So I may not be great at building relationships, but I am absolutely brilliant at critiquing and giving constructive feedback.
A senior director in banking that I met recently mentioned that she always gets feedback on being too sensitive. She used to take it quite personally, worry about it and tried being less (overtly) sensitive, with little impact. However, being sensitive also means that she is great at feeling what clients need and picking up signals from people in her team. You can imagine she is totally brilliant at delivering to the needs of clients and creating an engaged team.
See? Every weakness is a strength if you turn it around.

Turning Negative Feedback into an Advantage

Once you have turned it around, there is one step up: owning it. Really own this weakness of yours, be proud of it, see it as strength and speak up about it.

Before you know it you will hear yourself say that you are indeed quite a sensitive person, and that you are glad too as it is what has built you such a faithful client base. You can even follow a remark like this by asking the other person to take your sensitivity into account next time they deal with you.

Bringing it into Practice

It shouldn’t be too hard to get this started. Just remember the most-heard negative feedback you get, then try turning it around. What is good about being impatient? What is good about not being detail oriented?

You can also start with your strengths straight away. A great way to find them is to start by looking at gender differences. You are bound to be good at one of the key five things women tend to be good at. Chances are, you have been overlooking this strength for years, as it comes so natural to you. Check out my recent video to help you understand what your strengths are.

* I overheard this one, but cannot find the research, do let me know if you know it!

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Author: Inge Woudstra

Would you like to know more or have a question? I am always happy to have a chat to discuss your needs. Why not drop me a line or pick up the phone? Call me at 01372 457 907 or Just contact me to discuss your requirements by e-mail.

I can help you recruit, retain and advance women, and typically work with organisations in tech and engineering.

Or just check out my book 'Be Gender Smart - The Key to Career Success for Women'

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