3 Tips for Handling Negative Feedback

negative feedback

When you work in marketing or communications, negative feedback on your work tends to feel like a punch in the gut. And after a few rounds of edits, you start to fear a red pen the way a dog might fear a rolled-up newspaper. But you shouldn’t.

I know, I know, easier said than done, but keep reading! Because I’ve got three reasons why you shouldn’t take those edits personally, and even a few tips for how to turn those bad feelings around.

1. Nothing important is objective.

Have you ever asked someone to help you with something — a project, a surprise party, a move — that was really important to you? And then got kind of ticked off when your helper didn’t spend nearly as much time agonizing over every little detail like you did?

That’s because we tend to attach emotions to things that are important to us. Your boss might feel enormous pressure to make everything perfect for a client’s product launch, but to you, their press release is just another thing on your to-do list.

The more important something is to the people you’re working for, the more likely it is to come back full of edits. It’s not that you don’t care — it’s that you don’t care as much as they do. In other words, it’s not a personal attack on your abilities, so you shouldn’t take it personally.


Every piece of feedback is an opportunity to learn. Whenever you get negative feedback, you have a choice: 1) Simply correct the offending word/sentence or 2) use that feedback as an opportunity to learn what’s important to your boss or the client.

I know it takes extra thought, but always go for option #2. Because a good communicator isn’t just a competent writer. They’re someone who can understand needs and anticipate responses. So when you get negative feedback, don’t get upset. Just take a second and ask yourself a few questions.

What key idea were you missing? What are some things about your writing style that you should rein in? (Because yes, you’re a lovely writer, but not all styles suit all people.) Asking questions like these will enable you to create a better work product in the future.


2. You’re new.

If you’re new to an organization, it’s going to take time for you to learn things like employee culture, priority projects, and high-profile clients. You can’t be expected to know everything on your first day, or in your first week, or even your first few months.

So instead of berating yourself over the latest edits you’ve been handed, spend your energy on keeping your eyes and ears open.


One of my go-to ways to get assimilated into a new organization is to listen to leadership. If you hear leadership use the same words, phrases, and acronyms over and over again, take note. While some of it may seem like jargon or tired clichés, these things can be crucial when it comes to communicating in that organization.

Master these words and phrases, and you’ll be halfway to speaking their language. You can help them work on sounding less cliché once you’re more established.


3. Your boss is new.

There are few things more frustrating than feeling like you know your organization inside and out, and then getting a new boss who changes everything. Suddenly, not only are you not doing a stellar job, but your name is being dragged through the mud. This is HARD.

But it’s not about you, it’s about them! New bosses bring a whole new set of expectations, including expectations for communications and marketing. These expectations are largely rooted in the past, as in where they used to work, and what their communications/marketing staff was like there.


Your mind may be reeling, so reach out and grab onto something solid — connect with a member of your new boss’s old communications or marketing team. See if they’d be willing to help you out by answering a few questions.

What’s their team setup like? What kinds of things did your boss have them doing? What was the hardest thing about your boss to deal with? What kinds of things make your boss happy?

In general, the more you can understand about your new boss’s thinking, the easier it will be to not take his or her negative feedback personally. Better still, a discussion like this could make it easier to anticipate your their needs.


At the end of the day, remember that you are good at what you do. You wouldn’t have been hired to do it if you weren’t. Often, a little perspective is all you need to turn negative feedback into a positive thing.




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