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					Fear of Feedback

by Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober




                                        Reprint r0304h
                                                    April 2003


HBR Case Study                                         r0304a
Keeping to the Fairway
Thomas J. Waite

First Person                                           r0304b
Leading for Value
Brian Pitman

Luxury for the Masses                                   r0304c
Michael J. Silverstein and Neil Fiske

Tipping Point Leadership                               r0304d
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

R&D Comes to Services: Bank of America’s                r0304e
Pathbreaking Experiments
Stefan Thomke

HBR Interview                                           r0304f
Psychologist Karl E. Weick: Sense and Reliability
Diane L. Coutu

The 2003 HBR List: Breakthrough Ideas                  r0304g
for Tomorrow’s Business Agenda

Best Practice                                         r0304h
Fear of Feedback
Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober

Tool Kit                                                r0304j
Preparing for Evil
Ian I. Mitroff and Murat C. Alpaslan
                                                                                                                BEST PRACTICE




                                     Fear of
                                       Feedback            by Jay M. Jackman and Myra H. Strober


If you’re nervous about asking the boss how you’re doing, you’re not alone.
Getting the guidance you need requires recognizing your fears, countering them
with adaptive techniques, and gathering comments before your annual review.




                                             N
                                                      obody likes performance re-           chologically maladaptive behaviors such
                                                       views. Subordinates are terri-       as procrastination, denial, brooding,
                                                       fied they’ll hear nothing but         jealousy, and self-sabotage. But there’s
                                              criticism. Bosses, for their part, think      hope. Those who learn to adapt to feed-
                                              their direct reports will respond to even     back can free themselves from old pat-
                                              the mildest criticism with stonewalling,      terns. They can learn to acknowledge
                                              anger, or tears. The result? Everyone         negative emotions, constructively re-
                                              keeps quiet and says as little as possible.   frame fear and criticism, develop real-
                                              That’s unfortunate, because most peo-         istic goals, create support systems, and
                                              ple need help figuring out how they can        reward themselves for achievements
                                              improve their performance and advance         along the way.
                                              their careers.                                   We’ll look closely at a four-step pro-
                                                 This fear of feedback doesn’t come         cess for doing just that. But before we
                                              into play just during annual reviews.         turn to that process, let’s explore why so
                                              At least half the executives with whom        many people are afraid to hear how
                                              we’ve worked never ask for feedback.          they’re doing.
                                              Many expect the worst: heated argu-
                                              ments, impossible demands, or even            Fear Itself
                                              threats of dismissal. So rather than seek     Obviously, some managers have excel-
                                              feedback, people avoid the truth and in-      lent relationships with their bosses.
                                              stead continue to try to guess what their     They receive feedback on a regular basis
                                              bosses think.                                 and act on it in ways that improve their
                                                 Fears and assumptions about feed-          performance as well as their prospects
                                              back often manifest themselves in psy-        for promotion. Sadly, however, such

Copyright © 2003 by Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.                                            3
B E S T P R A C T I C E • Fe a r o f Fe e d b a c k


executives are in the minority. In most               continued procrastination became a            couldn’t meet them. Rather than talk
companies, feedback typically comes via               serious performance issue that cost him       with his boss about this, he became
cursory annual performance reviews,                   a promotion.                                  desperately unhappy and withdrew
during which managers learn little be-                   Denial. We’re in denial when we’re         from his colleagues. They in turn saw
yond the amount of a forthcoming raise.               unable or unwilling to face reality or fail   his withdrawal as a snub and began to
   People avoid feedback because they                 to acknowledge the implications of our        ignore him. The more they avoided him,
hate being criticized, plain and simple.              situations. Denial is most often an un-       the more he brooded. By the end of six
Psychologists have a lot of theories                  conscious response.                           months, Adrian’s brooding created a
about why people are so sensitive to                     Angela, a midlevel manager in a con-       self-fulfilling prophecy; because he had
hearing about their own imperfections.                sulting firm, drifted into a state of denial   met none of his goals, his new projects
One is that they associate feedback with              when a hoped-for promotion never ma-          were assigned to someone else, and his
the critical comments received in their               terialized. Her superiors told her that       job was in jeopardy.
younger years from parents and teach-                 she hadn’t performed as well as they’d           Jealousy. Comparing ourselves with
ers. Whatever the cause of our discom-                expected. Specifically, they told her          others is a normal behavior, but it be-
fort, most of us have to train ourselves to           she’d requested too much time off to          comes maladaptive when it is based on
seek feedback and listen carefully when
we hear it. Absent that training, the very
threat of critical feedback often leads us                 Adapting to feedback is critical for managers
to practice destructive, maladaptive be-
haviors that negatively affect not only
                                                           who find themselves in jobs, companies,
our work but the overall health of our                     and industries undergoing frequent transitions.
organizations. The following are some
examples of those behaviors.
   Procrastination. We procrastinate –                spend with her children, she hadn’t           suspicion, rivalry, envy, or possessive-
usually consciously – when we feel help-              sufficiently researched a certain indus-       ness. Jealous people may overidealize
less about a situation and are anxious,               try, she hadn’t met her yearly quota of       others whom they perceive to be more
embarrassed, or otherwise dissatisfied                 bringing in ten new clients, and so on.       talented, competent, and intelligent;
with it. Procrastination commonly con-                Every time she tried to correct these         in so doing, they debilitate themselves.
tains an element of hostility or anger.               problems, her male superiors put her             Leslie, a talented vice president of a
   Consider how Joe, a highly accom-                  off with a new series of excuses and          public relations firm, fell into the jeal-
plished computer scientist in a large                 challenges. The fact was, they had no         ousy trap when her boss noted during
technology company, responded to his                  intention of promoting her because            a meeting that one of her colleagues had
frustration over not being promoted.                  they were deeply sexist. Accepting that       prepared a truly excellent report for a
(As with all the examples in this article,            fact would have required Angela to            client. Leslie began comparing herself
people’s names have been changed.)                    leave, but she chose instead to live in       with her colleague, listening carefully to
Although everyone in the company                      denial. Rather than recognize she was         the boss’s remarks during meetings and
respected his technical competence, he                at a dead end, she did nothing about          noting his smiles and nods as he spoke.
sensed something was wrong. Instead                   her situation and remained miserable          Feeling that she could never rise to her
of seriously assessing his performance                in her job.                                   colleague’s level, Leslie lost all enthusi-
and asking for feedback, he became                       Brooding. Brooding is a powerful           asm for her work. Instead of seeking a re-
preoccupied with inessential details of               emotional response, taking the form           ality check with her boss, she allowed
his projects, played computer solitaire,              of morbid preoccupation and a sense           the green-eyed monster to consume her;
and consistently failed to meet project               of foreboding. Faced with situations they     ultimately, she quit her job.
deadlines. When Joe asked about his                   feel they can’t master, brooders lapse           Self-Sabotage. Examples of self-sabo-
chances for advancement in his annual                 into passivity, paralysis, and isolation.     tage, usually an unconscious behavior,
review, his boss singled out Joe’s re-                   Adrian, a training manager, brooded        are all too common. Even national lead-
peated failure to finish projects on time              when his boss set forth several stretch       ers such as Bill Clinton and Trent Lott
or to seek formal extensions when he                  goals for him. Believing the goals to be      have hoisted themselves on their own
knew work would be late. In fact, Joe’s               unrealistic, Adrian concluded that he         petards.
                                                                                                       Workplaces are full of people who
Jay M. Jackman is a psychiatrist and human resources consultant in Stanford, Califor-               unconsciously undercut themselves.
nia. He can be reached at jayj@stanfordalumni.org. Myra H. Strober is a labor                       Take, for example, the story of Nancy,
economist and professor at Stanford University’s School of Education, and by courtesy               a young associate who found herself
at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She is also a human resources consultant               unable to deal with more than two
and can be reached at myras@stanford.edu.                                                           projects at once. During her review,

4                                                                                                                   harvard business review
                                                                                             Fe a r o f Fe e d b a c k • B E S T P R A C T I C E


Nancy resented her boss’s feedback            it: You may be procrastinating out of           without such encouragement. Support
that she needed to improve her ability        anger, frustration, sadness, or other feel-     can come in many forms, but it should
to multitask. But instead of initiating       ings. But persevering in the detective          begin with at least two people – includ-
further discussion with him about the         work is important, for the payoff is high.      ing, say, a spouse, a minister or spiritual
remark, she “accidentally”made a nasty        Having named the emotion and re-                counselor, a former mentor, an old high
comment about him one day within his          sponse, you can then act – just as some-        school classmate – with whom you feel
earshot. As a result, he began looking for    one who fears flying chooses to board a          emotionally safe. Ideally, one of these
ways to get rid of her. When she was          plane anyway. With practice, it gradually       people should have some business ex-
eventually fired, her innermost feelings       becomes easier to respond differently,          perience. It may also help to enlist the
of unworthiness were validated.               even though the fear, anger, or sadness         assistance of an outside consultant or
  These and other maladaptive behav-          may remain.                                     executive coach.
iors are part of a vicious cycle we have         Maria, a midlevel manager with whom             Reframe the feedback. Another
seen at play in too many organizations.       we worked, is a good example of some-           adaptive technique, reframing, allows
Indeed, it’s not uncommon for employ-         one who learned to name her emotions            you to reconstruct the feedback process
ees, faced with negative feedback, to         and act despite them. Maria was several         to your advantage. Specifically, this in-
rain private maledictions upon their          months overdue on performance re-               volves putting the prospect of asking for
supervisors. No wonder, then, that su-        views for the three people who reported         or reacting to feedback in a positive
pervisors are reluctant to give feedback.     to her. When we suggested that she was          light so that negative emotions and re-
But when employees’ imagined and real         procrastinating, we asked her how she           sponses lose their grip.
fears go unchecked, the work environ-         felt when she thought about doing the              Take the example of Gary, a junior
ment becomes dysfunctional, if not            reviews. After some reflection, she said         sales manager for a large manufacturing
downright poisonous.                          she was extremely resentful that her            company. Gary’s boss told him that he
                                              boss had not yet completed her own              wasn’t sociable enough with customers
Learning to Adapt                             performance evaluation; she recognized          and prospects. The criticism stung, and
Adapting to feedback – which inevitably       that her procrastination was an expres-         Gary could have responded with denial
asks people to change, sometimes sig-         sion of her anger toward him. We                or brooding. Indeed, his first response
nificantly – is critical for managers who      helped her realize that she could act           was to interpret the feedback as shal-
find themselves in jobs, companies, and        despite her anger. Accordingly, Maria           low. Eventually, though, Gary was able
industries undergoing frequent transi-        completed the performance evaluations           to reframe what he’d heard, first by
tions. Of course, adaptation is easier said   for her subordinates and, in so doing,          grudgingly acknowledging it. (“He’s
than done, for resistance to change is        felt as if a huge weight had been lifted        right, I’m not very sociable. I tested as
endemic in human beings. But while            from her shoulders. Once she had com-           an introvert on the Myers-Briggs, and
most people feel they can’t control the       pleted the reviews, she noticed that her        I’ve always been uncomfortable with
negative emotions that are aroused by         relationships with her three subordi-           small talk.”) Then Gary reframed the
change, this is not the case. It is possi-    nates quickly improved, and her boss            feedback. Instead of seeing it as painful,
ble – and necessary – to think positively     responded by finishing Maria’s perfor-           he recognized that he could use it to
about change. Using the following adap-       mance review.                                   help his career. Avoiding possible mal-
tive techniques, you can alter how you           We should note that Maria’s procras-         adaptive responses, he was able to ask
respond to feedback and to the changes        tination was not an entrenched habit,           himself several important questions:
it demands.                                   so it was relatively easy to fix. Employees      “How critical is sociability to my posi-
   Recognize your emotions and re-            who start procrastinating in response to        tion? How much do I want to keep
sponses. Understanding that you are ex-       negative emotions early in their work           this job? How much am I willing to
periencing fear (“I’m afraid my boss will     lives won’t change that habit quickly –         change to become more sociable?” In
fire me”) and that you are exhibiting a        but they can eventually.                        responding, Gary realized two things:
maladaptive response to that fear (“I’ll         Get support. Identifying your emo-           that sociability was indeed critical to
just stay out of his way and keep my          tions is sometimes difficult, and feed-          success in sales and that he wasn’t will-
mouth shut”) are the critical initial steps   back that requires change can leave you         ing to learn to be more sociable. He re-
toward adaptive change. They require          feeling inhibited and ashamed. For              quested a transfer and moved to a new
ruthless self-honesty and a little detec-     these reasons, it’s critical to ask for help    position where he became much more
tive work, both of which will go a long       from trusted friends who will listen,           successful.
way toward helping you undo years of          encourage, and offer suggestions. Asking           Break up the task. Yet another adap-
disguising your feelings. It’s important      for support is often hard, because most         tive technique is to divide up the large
to understand, too, that a particular         corporate cultures expect managers to           task of dealing with feedback into man-
maladaptive behavior does not neces-          be self-reliant. Nevertheless, it’s nearly      ageable, measurable chunks, and set
sarily tell you what emotion underlies        impossible to make significant change            realistic time frames for each one. Al-


april 2003                                                                                                                                    5
B E S T P R A C T I C E • Fe a r o f Fe e d b a c k


though more than two areas of behavior
may need to be modified, it’s our expe-
rience that most people can’t change                  Reframe Your Thinking
more than one or two at a time. Taking
                                                      Almost everyone dreads performance reviews, which typically take place once a year.
small steps and meeting discrete goals
                                                      But how you respond to the boss’s feedback – and how often you request it – will
reduces your chances of being over-
whelmed and makes change much                         largely affect your performance and chances for career advancement. We’ve found
more likely.                                          that getting beyond that sense of dread involves recognizing and naming the emo-
   Jane, for example, received feedback               tions and behaviors that are preventing you from initiating feedback discussions.
indicating that the quality of her work               Once you determine those emotional and behavioral barriers, it’s a matter of refram-
was excellent but that her public pre-                ing your thoughts and moving toward more adaptive behavior. Below are some exam-
sentations were boring. A quiet and re-               ples of how you might turn negative emotions into more positive, productive thoughts.
served person, Jane could have felt over-
whelmed by what she perceived as the                  Possible
subtext of this criticism: that she was a             Negative Emotion               Maladaptive Response                Reframing Statement
lousy public speaker and that she’d bet-              Anger                          Acting out                          It’s up to me to get the
ter transform herself from a wallflower                (I’m mad at my boss            (stomping around, complain-         feedback I need.
into a writer and actress. Instead, she                because he won’t talk          ing, being irritable, yelling at
adapted by breaking down the chal-                     to me directly.)               subordinates or family)
lenge of “interesting presentations”into
                                                      Anxiety                        Brooding                            Finding out can open up
its constituent parts (solid and well-
                                                      (I don’t know                  (withdrawal, nail biting)           new opportunities for me.
constructed content; a commanding de-
                                                       what will happen.)            Avoiding
livery; an understanding of the audi-                                                (I’m too busy to ask for
ence; and so on). Then she undertook to                                               feedback.)
teach herself to present more effectively
by observing several effective speakers               Fear of confrontation          Denial, procrastination,            Taking the initiative
                                                      (I don’t want to do this.)     self-sabotage                       puts me in charge and
and taking an introductory course in
                                                                                     (canceling meetings with boss)      gives me some power.
public speaking.
   It was important for Jane to start with            Fear of reprisal               Denial                              I really need to know
the easiest task – in this case, observing            (If I speak up, will           (I don’t need any feedback. I’m     honestly how I’m doing.
good speakers. She noted their gestures,               I get a pink slip?)            doing just fine.)
the organization of their speeches, their             Hurt                           Irritability, jealousy of others    I can still pay attention
intonation, timing, use of humor, and                 (Why did he say I wasn’t       (silence, plotting to get even)     to what he said even though
so forth. Once she felt she understood                 trying hard enough?)                                              I feel hurt.
what good speaking entailed, she was
                                                      Defensiveness                  Acting out by not                   Being defensive keeps
ready to take the introductory speaking
                                                      (I’m better than she says.)    supporting the boss                 me from hearing what
course. These endeavors allowed her
                                                                                     (You can bet I’m not going          she has to say.
to improve her presentations. Though
                                                                                      to her stupid meeting.)
she didn’t transform herself into a mes-
merizing orator, she did learn to com-                Sadness                        Brooding, withdrawal                How I’m doing in my
mand the attention and respect of an                  (I thought he liked me!)       (being quieter than usual,          job isn’t about whether
audience.                                                                             feeling demotivated)               I’m liked.
   Use incentives. Pat yourself on the                Fear of change                 Denial                              I must change to keep my job.
back as you make adaptive changes.                    (How will I ever do all that   (keep doing things the same         I need to run the marathon
That may seem like unusual advice,                    he wants me to do?)             way as before)                     one mile at a time.
given that feedback situations can
                                                      Ambivalence                    Procrastination, passivity          What really serves my
rouse us to self-punishment and few                   (Should I stay or should       (waiting for somebody else          interests best? Nobody is as
of us are in the habit of congratulating               I go?)                         to solve the problem)              interested in my well-being
ourselves. Nevertheless, nowhere is it                                                                                   as I am. I need to take some
written that the feedback process must                                                                                   action now.
be a wholly negative experience. Just
                                                      Resignation                    Resistance to change                I’ll be much happier
as a salary raise or a bonus provides in-
                                                      (I have to leave!)             (It’s just too hard to look for     working somewhere else.
centive to improve performance, re-
                                                                                      another job. It’s not really
warding yourself whenever you take
                                                                                      so bad here.)
an important step in the process will

6                                                                                                                        harvard business review
                                                                                           Fe a r o f Fe e d b a c k • B E S T P R A C T I C E


help you to persevere in your efforts.          Bob took several weeks to do his self-      can’t trust any of your colleagues, you
The incentive should be commensurate         assessment. Once we helped him real-           should bypass such feedback conversa-
with the achievement. For example,           ize that he was procrastinating with           tions and move directly to setting up a
an appropriate reward for completing         the assessment, he enlisted a support          meeting with your boss.
a self-assessment might be an unin-          system – his wife and an old college              Bob asked for feedback from two
terrupted afternoon watching ESPN            buddy – who encouraged him to finish            trusted colleagues, Sheila and Paul, at
or, for a meeting with the boss, a fine       his tally of recollections. At the end of      meetings that he specifically scheduled
dinner out.                                  the process, he recognized that he had         for this purpose. He requested both pos-
                                             received a good deal of positive infor-        itive and negative feedback and specific
Getting the Feedback                         mal feedback from many of the people           examples of areas in which he did well
You Need                                     with whom he interacted. But he also           and in which he needed to improve. He
Once you’ve begun to adapt your re-          realized that he was too eager to please       listened intently to their comments,
sponses and behavior, it’s time to start     and needed to be more assertive in ex-         interrupting only for clarification. Both
seeking regular feedback from your boss      pressing his opinions. We helped him           told him that he analyzed problems
rather than wait for the annual perfor-      reframe these uncomfortable insights           carefully and interacted well with em-
mance review to come around. The             so that he could see them as areas for         ployees. Yet Sheila noted that at par-
proactive feedback process we recom-         potential growth.                              ticularly busy times of the year, Bob
mend consists of four manageable steps:         External Feedback. The next phase           seemed to have difficulty setting his pri-
self-assessment, external feedback, ab-      of the proactive process – asking for feed-    orities, and Paul pointed out that Bob
sorbing the feedback, and taking action      back – is generally a two-part task: The       needed to be more assertive. Armed
toward change. The story of Bob, a vice      first involves speaking to a few trusted        with his colleagues’ feedback, Bob had
president of human resources, illustrates    colleagues to collect information that         a clearer notion of his strengths and
how one executive used the four-step
process to take charge of his work life.
   When we first met Bob, he had been
on the job for three years and felt he was
                                                 Divide up the large task of dealing with feedback
in a feedback vacuum. Once a year, to-           into manageable, measurable chunks, and set realistic
ward the end of December, Harry – the
gruff, evasive CEO to whom he re-                time frames for each one.
ported – would call Bob in, tell him what
a fine job he had been doing, announce
his salary for the following year, and       supports or revises your self-assessment.      weaknesses. He realized that some of
give him a small bonus. But this year,       The second involves directly asking your       his difficulties in setting priorities were
Bob had been dealing with thorny is-         boss for feedback. Gathering feedback          owing to unclear direction from Harry,
sues – including complaints from senior      from trusted colleagues shouldn’t be           and he made a note to raise the matter
female executives about unfair com-          confused with 360-degree feedback,             with him.
pensation – and needed some real feed-       which culls a wide variety of perspec-            The next step in external feedback –
back. Bob wondered how Harry viewed          tives, including those from people who         the actual meeting with your boss – re-
his work. Were there aspects of Bob’s        may not know you well. By speaking             quires delicate handling, particularly
performance that Harry wasn’t happy          confidentially with people you gen-             since the request may come as a surprise
with? Did Harry intend to retain Bob         uinely trust, you can keep some of the         to him or her. In setting up the meeting,
in his current position?                     fear associated with feedback at bay.          it’s important to assure your boss that
   Self-Assessment. We encouraged Bob        Trusted colleagues can also help you           criticisms and suggestions will be heard,
to begin by assessing his own perfor-        identify your own emotional and possi-         appreciated, and positively acted on.
mance. Self-assessment can be a tough        bly maladaptive responses to criticism,        It’s vital, too, to set the agenda for the
assignment, particularly if one has never    which is particularly beneficial prior          meeting, letting your superior know
received useful feedback to begin with.      to your meeting with your superior.            that you have three or four questions
The first task in self-assessment was for     Additionally, feedback conversations           based on your self-assessment and feed-
Bob to determine which elements of his       with colleagues can often serve as a           back from others. During the meeting,
job were most important. The second          form of dress rehearsal for the real           ask for specific examples and sugges-
was to recall informal feedback he had       thing. Sometimes, colleagues point out         tions for change while remaining phys-
received from coworkers, subordinates,       areas that warrant immediate attention;        ically and emotionally neutral about the
and customers – not only words, but          when they do, it’s wise to make those          feedback you hear. Watch carefully not
facial expressions, body language, and       changes before meeting with the boss.          only for specific content but also for
silences.                                    On the other hand, if you think you            body language and tone, since feedback


april 2003                                                                                                                                  7
B E S T P R A C T I C E • Fe a r o f Fe e d b a c k


can be indirect as well as direct. When               actions private until you can replace         ployees’ criticisms personally. He also
the meeting concludes, thank your boss                them with adaptive responses that lead        kept an eye on the company’s financials
and indicate that you will get back to her            to an appropriate plan of action.             and reconnected with his professional
with a plan of action after you’ve had                   Bob, for example, realized he felt irri-   network in case it became clear the or-
time to absorb what you’ve heard. Re-                 tated and vaguely hurt at the sugges-         ganization was starting to founder.
member, too, that you can terminate the               tion that he needed to toughen up. He
meeting if it becomes counterproduc-                  brooded for a while but then reframed         The Rewards of Adaptation
tive (for example, if your boss responds              these feelings by recognizing that the        Organizations profit when executives
to any of your questions with anger).                 negative feedback was as much a com-          seek feedback and are able to deal well
   During his feedback meeting with                   mentary on Harry’s preoccupations as it       with criticism. As executives begin to
Harry, Bob inquired about his work pri-               was on Bob’s performance. Bob didn’t          ask how they are doing relative to man-
orities. Harry told him that the com-                 use the reframing to negate Harry’s           agement’s priorities, their work be-
pany’s financial situation looked pre-                 feedback; he accepted that he needed to       comes better aligned with organiza-
carious and that Bob should focus on                  be more assertive and hard-nosed in           tional goals. Moreover, as an increasing
locating and implementing a less costly               dealing with employees’ issues.               number of executives in an organiza-
health benefit plan. Harry warned Bob                     Taking Action. The last phase of the       tion learn to ask for feedback, they
that a new plan would surely anger                    proactive feedback process involves           begin to transform a feedback-averse
some employees, and because of that,                  coming to conclusions about, and acting       environment into a more honest and
Bob needed to develop a tougher skin                  on, the information you’ve received.          open one, in turn improving perfor-
to withstand the inevitable criticisms.               Bob, for example, chose to focus on two       mance throughout the organization.
   As Bob learned, feedback meetings                  action strategies: implementing a less           Equally important, using the adaptive
can provide more than just a perfor-                  costly health care plan – which included      techniques we’ve mentioned can have
mance assessment; they can also offer                 preparing himself to tolerate employee        a positive effect on executives’ private
some other important and unexpected                   complaints – and quietly looking for          lives. When they free themselves from
insights. Bob had been so immersed in                 new employment, since he now under-           knee-jerk behaviors in response to emo-
HR issues that he had never noted that                stood that the company’s future was           tions, they often find that relationships
Harry had been otherwise preoccupied                  uncertain. Both of these decisions made       with family and friends improve. In-
with the company’s financial problems.                 Bob uncomfortable, for they evoked his        deed, they sometimes discover that
   Absorbing the Feedback. Upon hear-                 fear of change. But having developed          rather than fear feedback, they look
ing critical feedback, you may well ex-               his adaptive responses, he no longer felt     forward to leveraging it.
perience the negative emotions and                    trapped by fear. In the months follow-
maladaptive responses we described                    ing, he implemented the new health            Reprint r0304h
earlier. It’s important to keep your re-              benefits plan without taking his em-           To place an order, call 1-800-988-0886.




8                                                                                                                     harvard business review