One of the most difficult conversations I had with a former mentor about my performance didn’t really feel like a conversation. It felt more like an attack:
‘Have you received feedback about your performance lately?’
‘Yes, I just had a review with my leader and project coach. They had great things to say about my work on the project and we discussed a few development areas related to broadening my FICO experience and public speaking.’
‘Oh, I guess so and so should have told you this already. I’ve received feedback that you have a tendency to be… well… kind of whiny.’
At first I felt confused. Then I blamed my mentor for delivering the review poorly by using an undescriptive word and not explaining. I was too embarassed to ask her to elaborate and I tried to change the conversation to avoid discussing it further. It felt like a big shock to my ego after receiving many glowing reviews from project members and leaders. I left the room feeling like everyone felt this way. I wracked my brain for a specific time when I demonstrated this behavior. The word kept repeating in my brain. ‘WHINY, WHINY, WHINY.’
Reflecting on it now, it’s kind of silly. Sure, we all complained about long work hours while traveling for Go Live or about the cafeteria food in France. What bothered me was that it wasn’t an issue with the work I delivered on the project, it was an issue with how I delivered the work. I had a close relationship with my team members and I couldn’t help but feel like one of my coworkers was trying to make me look bad. Soon I was more focused on blaming someone else then changing my behavior.
Here’s how I would advise to handle a situation like this next time.
- Listen closely to the feedback, but don’t overanalyze and make a big fuss out of the exact words. Remember that it’s difficult to deliver negative feedback.
- Try not to be on the defensive. Thank them for sharing their concern. ‘I appreciate you mentioning this concern. I will certainly keep this in mind.’
- Ensure you understand specifically what you did or in what instance this occured. Try to get at the root of the issue. ‘Can you give me a situation where I exhibited this behavior? I want to make sure I understand what I did wrong so I can correct it.’
- After the conversation, take time to reflect. Consider discussing the feedback with other mentors. It can be valuable to see if other leaders or peers agree or disagree. However, be careful how you approach this discussion. Be open to receiving criticisms.
- Decide whether or not to make a change. Remember that most performance feedback is subjective.
Overall, try to put your ego aside and either make a change or move on!