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The Disappointment Dilemma: How to Handle Negative Feedback for Positive Results

The Disappointment Dilemma: How to Handle Negative Feedback for Positive Results

Discovery, Due Diligence, Care, and Creativity

Sometimes, even if you are exceptionally committed to delivering stellar service, a great product, and measurable results, there’s always a chance your work isn’t living up to the expectations of those you serve.

Most of us have experienced an unexpected blip on the radar. Whether it’s a creative presentation gone awry, complaints about responsiveness, disappointing metrics, or just an out of the blue phone call that snowballs into a lengthy airing of grievances, it’s never a pleasure to receive negative feedback from someone you’ve presumably disappointed.

That being said, it happens, and though it can be a blow to our collective ego, and potentially send us into a defensive tailspin, most of the time it’s our job to absorb the feedback and quickly figure out the best, next steps to get things back on track to meet realistic, mutually agreed upon expectations. Easier said than done, right?

Lisa Samuels, Director of Marketing & Communications at the Tax Executives Institute, works to ensure the organization’s bimonthly professional journal, Tax Executive, engages and educates readers. “From time to time, I get calls from members who aren’t happy with the way we’ve positioned a particular article. I know that when a member takes time out of their busy schedule to actually reach out and express their thoughts and feelings, the issue is important to them, and so it has to be important to me. I try to collect as much information and detail as possible to best understand where the emotion or reaction is coming from. I want them to know that I hear them, I apologize for any aggravation this issue has caused them, and let them know that we will definitely take their feedback into consideration for the future.”

Taking a breath, and controlling your reaction when seemingly bad news is delivered is really the key to moving forward. Who hasn’t wanted to utter an “are you kidding?!” from time to time. It’s natural to take criticism personally—at least as an immediate reaction. It helps to remember that all feedback, positive or negative, comes from somewhere, and that you should take a breath before you react.

Sometimes it may seem like complaints aren’t based on the facts, or go above and beyond the expected scope of work. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about what he or she is really concerned about, or what might have triggered his or her reaction. Breaking down the situation can oftentimes help clarify the key issues, and lead to a resolution where both parties agree on the best, next steps to move forward.

“If an issue has been escalated and brought to my attention by a client, I immediately thank them for reaching out and commit to having a response for them within a specific time frame,” says Jack Davidson, VP of Marketing Services at The YGS Group. “I ask the client if they are comfortable with me getting the details about what occurred, and collecting information from all team members that were involved with the deliverable. I want to make sure we can resolve the issue for them as close to their satisfaction as possible, and having all the information will help us do that. Once that information is collected, my goal is to provide the client with a resolution ASAP to keep the project moving forward, and ensure that their expectations are met or exceeded.”

Wherever the disappointment stems from, approaching the situation with empathy and a desire to investigate and resolve the issue in a mutually beneficial way for all contributors is the key to effectively moving forward and nurturing positive relationships and impressive work.