Wisdom//

2 Ways Constructive Feedback Can Help You Grow at Work

These stories will transform your perspective on feedback — and inspire you to give some yourself.

oatawa / Shutterstock
oatawa / Shutterstock

Odds are, you’ve received constructive feedback during your career. Whether someone pointed out a specific mistake, or forced you to acknowledge an unproductive habit, getting this kind of feedback from a manager or coworker can feel tough. For some people, it triggers self-criticism, and even rumination — but experts assert that doesn’t need to be the case. The key is to shift your mindset from thinking about feedback as being either negative or positive — in the end, all feedback is just data: one nugget of information about yourself. And if you assume the person giving the feedback has positive intentions, you can see it as a compassionate gesture that can ultimately help you grow.

We asked members of the Thrive community to share the most difficult feedback they ever received at work, and how they used the experience to help them grow. Their anecdotes will transform the way you give, receive, and view feedback. 

Constructive criticism led to better use of information 

“At one of the seminars I taught, I got feedback saying that my presentation didn’t have enough research. Because I’m so passionate about what I teach, I believed that the passion would radiate through, and that people would see first-hand the impact my principles have had on my life. However, after heeding that piece of criticism and incorporating more empirical evidence into my seminars, I found the message was so much stronger. Every piece of feedback, good and bad, is so important to keep in mind. You can always use it to grow.”

—Kerry Wekelo, COO, Reston, VA

Honesty from a colleague sparked more productive habits 

“I’ve always worked in fast-paced and high-performance environments, which means the to-do lists are endless. In the past, every time I’d look at a list, I would immediately get completely overwhelmed. My coping mechanism was to bury myself in the most unimportant tasks first, and leave the important ones to the last minute. One of the most difficult yet constructive pieces of feedback from a co-worker — who ended up becoming a friend — was that I wasn’t as efficient as I was pretending to be. I was basically hiding. Earlier in my career I received some great advice: ‘Never be afraid to have the difficult conversations.’ I thought I had that down. But by first tackling the noise on my list, I was avoiding the difficult conversations. These days, I dive right in. It actually gives me peace of mind, because it makes it feel like there is, in fact, an end to my to-do list.”

—Wemi Opakunle, author and recruiter, Los Angeles, CA

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