Not many people like to be told they are doing something wrong. But for entrepreneurs and corporate executives, avoiding criticism can perpetuate a toxic work culture in which people are afraid to voice their opinions. The leadership expert shares his perspective on why Izzy Galicia can break the cycle of dysfunction by embracing feedback, even if it’s negative.
One of the hardest things for new entrepreneurs is learning how to deal with negative feedback. As a business leader, especially if the company is growing rapidly, get feedback from a variety of sources, from the board criticizing the company’s performance to Wall Street analysts criticizing the company’s stock as a “sell” experience.
At some point, it can start to feel like everyone in the world is turning against you and trying to kill your company. But the important thing is to respond to this negative feedback in a meaningful and productive way.
Accept negative feedback for positive use
Successful leaders receive negative feedback and use it as a constructive learning experience. The whole point of being an entrepreneur is growth, and it’s impossible to grow without learning. The most important thing a business leader can do to make a company successful is to commit to continuous improvement. Part of that is knowing how to better accept negative feedback.
To welcome this ethos of continuous improvement, many companies have adopted something called “people first.” But creating this employee-centric culture is easier said than done. A dishonest approach to employee feedback can be just as bad, or worse, than not welcoming feedback at all.
Unfortunately, even in workplace cultures where feedback is welcome, many business leaders tend to exhibit an “I know better” persona. Executives often think they know best because it’s “their company.” But few people know a company better than the people doing most of the legwork, the primary employee base.
Overcome workplace toxicity
That said, this mindset may not be the fault of the current generation of business leaders. Many C-suite executives grew up in and trained in systems plagued by workplace toxicity and poor leadership behavior. Recent research shows that 85% of newly minted CEOs fell into one of the following four categories before rising to the top position in their company:
We thus see that toxicity in the workplace is not a recent phenomenon but a perpetuation of a toxic culture that has reared its ugly head throughout most of the history of the business world. is not as easy as conducting an employee survey or opening a comment box. It will require changes to many of the fundamental practices and institutions of the business world.
One such practice that has proven particularly harmful to the workplace is for C-level leaders to “dictate” how to provide feedback to employees. For example, one workshop I attended was designed to teach employees of well-known companies how best to provide negative feedback to C-level leaders. Or use “positive, non-judgmental language” to address the problem.
The intentions behind such initiatives may be well-meaning, but they tend to backfire. This kind of instruction tends to make employees more intimidated when giving feedback to their boss instead of allowing them to speak up. By showing the “right” way to give feedback, employers imply that there are “wrong” ways to give feedback, discouraging many people from speaking up.
If C-level leaders don’t know how to properly handle negative feedback, it can affect the entire organization. By dismissing negative feedback or withdrawing from criticism, business leaders may miss out on truly helpful suggestions, which can have a significant impact on employee morale.
A natural human behavior is to surround yourself with like-minded people. In business, this practice is especially destructive. When business leaders are surrounded by “yes men” and don’t take the time to listen to a different point of view, they are in trouble. Not only does this echo chamber leave the business vulnerable, but an undoubted mistake can bring down the entire business; it also suppresses many voices across the employee base. thereby neutralizing potential opportunities for growth.
How executives can improve workplace culture and embrace feedback
Companies must strive to break this vicious cycle of stifling negative feedback and create a space in which criticism is welcomed. One of the easiest ways for employers to create an environment conducive to feedback (including negative feedback) is to provide employees with a way to provide truly anonymous feedback. This doesn’t mean putting the comment box in a prominent place in the office. Truly anonymous feedback requires creating a way for leaders to provide feedback without being completely unaware of the employee’s identity.
This kind of negative feedback should be accepted by employees at all levels. From company VPs to new hires to interns, everyone has their own perspective on what works and what doesn’t.
The goal of the workplace is to accommodate everyone, so understanding everyone’s needs. There’s no better way to find this out than by listening to it from the source itself.
Business leaders should embrace this negative feedback and recognize it as a gift. Listening to employee feedback is one thing, but when a company doesn’t act on the feedback given to them, employees start to feel disillusioned with their workplace and feel unappreciated.
These days, it’s harder than ever for companies to earn the trust of their employees. It takes a lot of effort and commitment to create a work environment that meets the needs and desires of all employees for their workplace. Yet our continued and dedicated efforts to build a corporate culture that prioritizes trust, along with our unwavering integrity, make our employees feel much more comfortable and valued while at work.
Accepting negative feedback is not natural for upper-level leaders and is usually not taught. Instead, successful leaders must learn how to do it themselves by adopting strategies that make employees more comfortable giving negative feedback and criticism, provides the company with the opportunities it needs to grow and improve.