Bridge over ocean
1 March 2014 CFA Institute Journal Review

Find the Coaching in Criticism (Digest Summary)

  1. Heather K. Traficanti

The authors describe the skills needed to effectively receive performance feedback, manage emotional triggers, and learn from feedback to improve job performance. They offer a step-by-step approach to becoming a better receiver of constructive criticism.

What’s Inside?

The authors provide an executive summary of the concepts and real-life examples they gave in their book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Receiving criticism well in the workplace is a skill that can be learned. To be successful today, workers need to learn how to manage their emotions and explicitly seek up-to-date feedback from bosses, peers, and subordinates rather than rely solely on a formal performance evaluation system.

How Is This Article Useful to Practitioners?

The target audience for this article is any practitioner in a team-oriented or client-related business, particularly anyone receiving performance evaluations and other feedback on the job. The authors gather information from surveys, industry research, and real-life examples as well as their 20 years of experience coaching executives on how to handle difficult conversations. Their objective is to provide guidance on how workers can better accept criticism at work and use that criticism to enhance their career development in terms of performance, problem solving, promotions, and financial incentives.

The authors offer several important conclusions. First, favorably receiving feedback requires managing emotional triggers, such as truth triggers, relationship triggers, and identity triggers. Truth triggers are associated with feedback that is perceived as incorrect or off-base. Relationship triggers are associated with the relationship between the receiver and the feedback provider. Identity triggers are associated with people’s perceptions of themselves, and such triggers can cause feelings of being overwhelmed, defensive, or off balance. These triggers can cause someone to reject, counterattack, or withdraw during conversations. Second, the authors offer six steps to becoming better at receiving feedback: Know your tendencies, disentangle the “what” from the “who,” work to hear feedback as valuable information rather than an indictment, analyze the feedback to fully understand it before making any decisions, explicitly seek critical feedback on a frequent basis, and test out the feedback.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

An individual’s career growth depends on favorably receiving and acting on constructive performance feedback. But as a survey of human resources executives shows, most managers do a poor job of providing timely and constructive feedback to subordinates when they believe expectations are not being met. This article provides a step-by-step guide for those employees who do receive performance feedback on how to benefit from such feedback and hold themselves accountable for professional development rather than relying on a coach.

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