Disagreeing with Feedback - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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Disagreeing with Feedback

There’s a common misconception that subtly lies within the psyche of employees, that all one can do when feedback is offered during the appraisal discussion is to say ‘thank you’  However, that is far from being the truth! There is no hard and fast rule that you have to agree with the feedback received.

Step 1. Avoid Reacting Defensively

Whenever you receive feedback, always keep in mind not to react defensively. While being defensive is a natural response, try to curb it and look beyond it. Try to listen and absorb the feedback with the intention of understanding the message and not reacting to it. This attitude will help in curbing your defensive reaction. It will rather provide you with an insight whether to agree or disagree with the feedback. When your manager gives you feedback, treat it as positive feedback. Show them that you are receptive to the feedback and that you indeed appreciate their opinion. This is known as ‘rewarding criticism’. However, it is normal if you sometimes find yourself disagreeing with the feedback. Whenever that happens, just try to listen and comprehend. You can disagree later. However, you can certainly share your opinion with your manager that you disagree with their comments. You must take some time to explain why you disagree with the comments. While ‘rewarding criticism’ needs to be learnt, you must not blindly follow it when you are genuinely not in agreement with the criticism offered.

What can you do when you disagree with feedback?

It is a given that there will be times when you are going to get some feedback that you would be in disagreement with. While you should not get defensive, but you also do not wish to feel muzzled. Here is a couple of things that you can do when you disagree with feedback:

  1. Check your understanding.
    Repeat back what you think you heard, and say, “Did I understand correctly?” or “Did I get that right?” This is an excellent opportunity to show you care about the person, and what they think.
  2. Take your time.
    Ideally, at the moment, just focus on listening and understanding. If you disagree, ask for some time to think more about the feedback. Taking more time will also help if you are mad or feel like it will be hard not to get defensive at the moment.
  3. Find common ground.
    Even if you don’t agree with everything that was said, find some aspect that you do agree with, and share it with the person.
  4. Discuss your disagreement.
    Let the person know what you don’t agree with and why. Ask to discuss both your thinking and theirs. This is where you need to employ both your “challenge directly” and your “care personally” skills.
  5. Commit to a course of action.
    Even if you can’t agree on everything that was said, work together to find and commit to a course of action. Take Apple’s example of  “Listen, Challenge, Commit.” Effectively discussing it, then looking at the data, & lastly looking at opinions. Always go with data first!

One thing that can help you react with radical candour is to think about criticism as a gift. If somebody gave you a shirt that was the wrong size, you’d say thank you because they cared enough to buy you a gift. But you wouldn’t have to wear the shirt in the wrong size just because someone gave it to you. If the shirt came from a person who’s going to give you more gifts in the future, you might tell that person what your shirt size is, or risk a lot more shirts in the wrong size.

Think of criticism as a particular kind of gift. There are two ways in which it can be a gift. The person can be pointing out a problem that, now you’re aware of it, you can fix. OR, the person can be pointing out a problem that is not actually a problem. Now that you are aware of what they think, you can give them an alternative point of view and perhaps change their mind. If you never disagree with the criticism, then you’re not taking full advantage of the gift.

When criticism is offered in good faith, it’s a gift. It may not be the gift you wanted or even the gift you needed, but the very act of giving it is an act of caring. We have found from personal experience and clients that thinking about criticism in these terms often proves useful in developing the skill of receiving it.


Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect