Anticipating feedback from a supervisor

Q: I recently took a job that I love. I graduated from college about three years ago and this is my second job. I enjoy my co-workers and the work is interesting. My supervisor has these meetings every few months called “feedback meetings.” I have not had one but I am sure my time is coming. During these meetings, she tells the employee what they do wrong and how the employee makes her look bad. I am dreading these meetings. What can I do to prepare?

A: Congratulations on your new role. Feedback can be helpful if delivered in a constructive way. It sounds like your supervisor is attempting to give her team members helpful feedback but it is being received a more punitive way. Or perhaps you are just hearing what employees are concerned about and not the content of the entire meeting? In reality, these meetings may be more balanced (with your supervisor sharing both positive and negative feedback) but you are only hearing about the worst part of these meetings. Is your supervisor negative in general, on a day-to-day basis, or is it just what you have heard about these meetings that is your concern?

A few thoughts on preparing for these meetings:

  1. Walk in with a positive attitude. Smile and be open with your both language. Use good eye contact. 
  2. Have a pen and a notepad handy to write down anything important. It also shows interest. 
  3. Share your thoughts about how the first few months have gone. Be candid but be sure to offer some positive feedback too. It sounds like you find the work interesting and have developed positive relationships with your peers. 
  4. If your supervisor truly heaps on the negative feedback, ask her if you can share some of the highlights and some of your accomplishments. Be prepared with a short list of accomplishments before you walk into the room. 
  5. Thank your supervisor for her time. Feedback can be just as hard to give as it is to receive.

Sometimes the anticipation of a meeting is worse than the meeting itself. After you have had your “feedback meeting,” you will be able to judge whether balanced feedback is delivered or truly this is a “dump” of negative feedback.