Career setbacks come in all shapes and sizes and can impact your confidence at any stage of your career. Negative feedback in particular can shake you up, have you feeling nervous about your future, and stop you from getting where you’d like to go.
I’ve personally experienced many setbacks in my own career and managing my confidence levels following each setback has been a learned process. In this post, I’ll share with you my own career confidence setback relating to receiving negative feedback, and how I overcame it, so you can too.
Receiving Negative Feedback
Early in my HR days, I was supporting a manager with one of his underperforming team members and it was my role to facilitate the process and ensure a fair outcome. Halfway through the process, when I felt I was doing a great job being empathetic to the employee and documenting the process professionally, the manager told me that I was being “too soft” and that we weren’t getting anywhere which was negatively impacting his team.
Ouch. It hurt to receive that feedback. I thought I had built a great relationship with both the manager and the employee and now I wasn’t sure how to talk to either of them. My confidence as a new HR advisor was shot and I was scared I was failing in the role. What I felt were my strengths, was not in the eyes of someone else. It sent me on a spiral of negative thoughts about myself and why I shouldn’t be in that role.
My initial reaction was to be defensive; justifying how I had approached the situation and thinking it was the manager who was blaming me for their own failings as a leader. Then I felt hurt, that the manager had not seen the amount of work that I had put into each and every part of the process. I also felt scared, that I would be “found out” and everyone would soon know that I shouldn’t have been promoted into a HR role and I’d soon be packing my bags.
Two Tips To Move On From The Setback
Often when we’re angry or hurt we gravitate to others who will ‘back us up’ (i.e. agree that we’ve been hard done by), which isn’t actually going to do much good (even though it feels good at the time). We need to get perspective, see what lessons can be learned from the situation and that comes with talking to someone who can see the bigger picture, and help you see it too.
After talking with my manager openly, I was able to see that how I was communicating was a little ambiguous with the employee and wasn’t being entirely clear about what the business’ expectations were. It gave me the opportunity to get perspective, learn, and become a better HR practitioner.
Distract Yourself Now, Reflect Later
Perhaps you’ve received a disappointing performance review, for instance. You’re probably reeling that you didn’t get the rating you were expecting. How unfair! You’re replaying it over and over and it’s affecting your performance each and every moment since the review. You might even be googling new jobs that actually value what you do (we’ve all been there!).
Try mentally putting the review “on the shelf” for a couple of days, then reflect on it once you’ve calmed down. That way, you’re less likely to drop the ball on anything you’re currently working on and more likely to see it for what it is – just feedback! And the feedback that you can learn and grow from.
Whether the negative feedback is valid, or not, there is always some action we can take to improve and move forward. My action plan included talking to my manager and receiving coaching on how I could improve in my communication. Then I actioned that. The result was a better relationship with the leader I was working with and a better outcome for his employee.
It’s never a nice moment to receive negative feedback, but if taken in the right context, it can help you to improve, grow, and have your career flourish.
If your confidence has taken a hit recently and you’d like some help regaining it, join me for my upcoming Career Confidence and Clarity Workshop.