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How Do I Deal With Negative Feedback at Work?

How to Turn Critical Feedback Into a Raise in Less Than 3 Months

The end of the year can mean a lot of things: time with family, too much eggnog, and annual performance reviews.

For many of us, performance reviews may mean more money, a better title, and greater responsibilities. On the other hand, many of us may be disappointed by the feedback we get. If your performance review didn't live up to expectations, don't worry. Any negative feedback you received is your ticket to negotiating a raise over the next few months.

It may sound crazy, but I've personally used this strategy to bump my salary by $10,000 in 90 days. Now I'm going to show you how you can do the same.

Let's say you got the following feedback in your review:

  • Ashley's projects appear to lack organization and she does not provide enough visibility
  • She is quiet in meetings and doesn't participate in knowledge sharing
  • She tends to work in a silo, restricting her ability to help the team grow as a whole

Step 1: Turn Feedback Into Measurable Goals

The first order of business is to take your feedback and transform it into a set of measurable goals. Spend the next day or two thinking about how you can reframe each item on that list into something that you can achieve over the next month.

For example, using the feedback above:

  • Send your manager two status updates per week for each project that you're working on
  • Share at least one thing you learned and ask at least one question in every team meeting
  • Be more vocal with the team and collaborate with a colleague on at least one project

Once you have your goals written down, stop by your manager's office to let them know that you've thought about their feedback and you'd like to a review a plan of action.

Step 2: Lay Out Your Plan and Track Your Results

Start your meeting off by thanking your manager for his or her feedback and agreeing with their points. It's important that you don't try to defend yourself, as you want to make sure that your manager feels like you are aligned with their views.

Next, let your manager know that you spent a lot of time thinking about what they had said and you've created an actionable plan to improve. The conversation might go something like this:

You: Hi Boss, thank you again for taking the time to give me feedback. I know that my projects seem to be solo ventures without much room for visibility. I have a tendency to get in the zone and block out anything except for the task at hand, even if that's you or other folks on the team.

Boss: Yes, it's hard to know what you're working on without regular updates. I also think that some of your colleagues could benefit from what you're doing and I'd like to see you give them that chance.

You: Absolutely, which is why I've come up with this plan. Moving forward, I am going to send you two status updates per week that include a summary of each project I'm working on. Additionally, I'm going to work to partner with someone else on the team to see how we can better collaborate and share knowledge. Do you think that would be a good start?

After sharing your plan, make sure that you diligently track the results of your work and try to maximize your output. Then book some time with your boss 30 days down the line to review your results.

Step 3: Prove Value and Plant the Seed

Before your 30-day check in, put together a quick summary of what you accomplished over the last month. For example:

You've been sending your status updates so your boss is totally in the loop. You also linked up with your colleague, John, and created a systemized process for dealing with the team's largest challenge, saving everyone several hours per week!

After presenting this to your manager, tell them that you really enjoyed having a concrete goal to go after and you'd like to set some more ambitious goals for the end of the quarter. Now you're going to ask them the million-dollar question:

What do I need to do in order to become a top performer on this team?

Make sure that your manager's answer is both specific and measurable. You want to extract a clear roadmap of the exact actions you need to take. Then you are going to follow up with another question:

If I hit all of those goals in the next 60 days, can we discuss the possibility of an increase in responsibility and compensation?

You might be cringing at the thought of mentioning the word "compensation" out loud in front of your boss. I don't blame you! I was terrified when I did this the first time, but one thing I've learned is that you need to make your expectations clear ahead of time. Otherwise you run the risk of having your manager increase their demands after you have already put in the work.

Step 4: Exceed Expectations and Build Your Case

Now you have two goals for the next 60 days: exceed your manager's expectations and begin building the case for your raise. The easiest way to pitch your case is by illustrating your value in a measurable way. Show your manager why paying you the extra money makes sense.

Let's say your average client spends $15,000 per month. If you grow one of them to $25,000 you just added $120,000 of incremental value over the next year. This makes asking for a $10,000 raise much easier because, hey, it's less than 10 percent of what you made for the company and you're just getting started!

In my personal case, I asked my manager exactly how much the top performer on our team grew their business by last quarter. Then I made it my mission to beat it by 20 percent. When I walked into their office three months later with the numbers, there was no question as to why I was asking to be paid more.

Step 5: Have the Conversation

When the 60-day mark arrives, have your case ready (my preferred method is creating a single-page synopsis of your results and bringing two copies) and make your request.

If the salaries are available for your position, do a little bit of research and ask for something in the 75-100 percent range. If not, ask for something $5,000-$10,000 higher than you want. You can always negotiate down, but once a number is on the table, you will never be offered anything higher.

Now see what they have to say.

If your request is granted, awesome! Treat yourself to a nice dinner, because you just turned your negative feedback into positive cash flow. If there's pushback, don't back down. Keep pressing them by asking for the specifics around why a pay bump isn't possible. Then it's your call on whether you want to give them another trial period or begin looking elsewhere, because your 60-day plan also got you some great résumé-building credentials!

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