The challenge of receiving feedback

Have you received feedback that left you reeling instead of being a constructive experience?

I remember my first ever ‘code review’ at the start of my career in the software industry. Code reviews are tough experiences. Your work is dissected by senior software engineers whose role is to help you improve its quality.

My reviewers didn’t pull their punches, focusing on the negative and overlooking the good. By the end of the meeting, my self-esteem was out for the count, as if I had met Mohammed Ali’s fists of fury. To cap it all, in serious tones, I was told my manager would be informed and a warning placed on my file. I was barely into a new job – was I about to lose it? Already battered, I received Mohammed Ali’s parting gift!

I didn’t understand what was happening and why I was getting this treatment. It turned out that the reviewers assumed I had at least a year’s worth of experience and were grilling me on that basis. When the mistake came to light, they apologised, but the damage had been done.

What I learned from my experience

Facing uncomfortable truths: the experience showed me what I need to work on in order to become more resilient. I had to first acknowledge uncomfortable truths about myself.

Quality matters: the company was committed to quality and checks and balances were essential. I needed to understand what these were and welcome them.

Show I care: the senior staff cared about the work being done and wanted the junior members to care too.

Don’t make assumptions: It’s much better to tackle the issue and get clarity rather than waste time and energy in worry and fear.

It’s not personal: it was my work, but it belonged to the company. So I had to do my best to meet the standards expected and not be attached.

Be considerate: I was not doing my work in isolation. It impacted others whether I knew it or not. Being aware of this changed the way I worked so I was more considerate and inclusive.

Being compassionate: after this experience, I resolved that I would treat others more compassionately.

Improving resilience is essential to receiving feedback and moving forwards. Even if the feedback is negative, it’s an opportunity to learn, develop and grow. A positive approach will benefit you.

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