How To Handle Negative Feedback At Work

Recently… I received negative feedback at work. I won’t go into a ton of details but the gist of the story is that I have been unproductive and unmotivated and it showed. And I KNOW I am a better employee than that. But I let my crappy feelings about my position get in the way of doing my job the best that I can. It was a really good reality check. It also gave me an opportunity to reflect and evaluate, which has helped me to set some goals in the office and out. I wanted to use this opportunity to share how I handled receiving the negative feedback (after I stopped crying), and the steps I took to make some changes.

Now keep in mind… I do not have some insanely successful career that has made me ass loads of money. But I have learned SO MUCH from the company that I work for. Especially because the 2 owners have very different leadership strategies. And when you eff up in the office they give you the chance to grow and make changes. They are VERY good at making you want to be better.

Stop [collaborate] & Listen

It is most peoples first instinct to get defensive when their boss, or really anyone, tells them that they are doing something wrong. It’s totally normal. But the WORST thing you can do is open your mouth and come up with some BS excuse or say the words “it’s not my fault.” Listen to what your boss is telling you and take a second to process before you speak.

Accept that this [probably] isn’t coming out of left field.

Chances are… your boss has a point. What they’re saying… isn’t coming out of left field. So before you get defensive, acknowledge that there is likely some truth to what they are saying.

Own. Your. Shit.

It’s OK that you effed up! No one is perfect (I mean… shit… I just cried my face off in front of my boss and didn’t burst into flame so…)! So just own it! Acknowledge to your boss that you agree that you messed up. That you didn’t do your best. And that you know changes need to be made. And ask for help if you need it. This bit is realllllllly dang important and can spark a pretty challenging conversation. But chances are pretty high that your boss wants you to succeed and will help provide you with the tools to do so and be the best employee you can be.


Once you stop crying (unless that’s just me), take a minute to process. If you need to… write it out! For me, putting pen to paper helps me sort out my thoughts which tends to lead to an action plan.

Get Organized

I’m a list maker. So how I dove into this bit is by making a list of areas that were addressed in the meeting that I need to work on. And from there form mini lists on ways to improve on those things. For me, creating an action plan helps make those changes feel a little less overwhelming. The VERY first thing I did after making those initial lists was reorganize my work space. I work best when I am in a space that I love and that I feel creatively charged. Unfortunately my little corner of the office (not to be mistaken with a corner office) is in a very public space. Which means I don’t get to do things like hang photos or do a whole lot to personalize it. Which is fine! It just means getting a little creative. So I took a trip to Home Goods to pick up some organizational items that are functional AND pretty. We went with a nice little gold theme. When you have a very tiny space you gotta work with what you’ve got. A fresh space means a fresh start!

Create A NEW Routine

I say NEW because clearly what you’re doing now isn’t entirely working. I am starting every work day with a to do list. Before anything else. Before opening emails, catching up with my coworkers, whatever. The only thing that will come first is my coffee. And that to do list will stay in my sight all damn day. But be organized about it. Color codes, numbers, whatever works for you! But make sure to prioritize and set yourself timeline goals.

End Of Day Check-In

Check in with yourself every day. Look over your to do list. Are there things that didn’t get done? Did you have some time during your day where you could have gotten that last thing done? Taking time to reflect on the day will help you prevent forming new bad habits or falling back into your old ways.

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

Give yourself some time to make the changes. They won’t be perfected over night… so adjust as you need. And don’t be too hard on yourself. If you don’t get it right, right off the bat that’s OK. And most importantly… ASK FOR HELP. If you find that you’re still struggling, ask for help. I PROMISE your boss would rather answer questions and help you learn new skills or tools than see you struggle on your own. They will appreciate that you are taking the initiative and making changes. Keep your head up… you’ve got this!

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  1. Patti wrote:

    Good job Emily! Your post will likely help others. You’ve got this!

    Posted 1.24.19 Reply