The Best Ways To Respond To Unfair Feedback At Work

Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)

Early in my career I had an interaction with a boss I now regret. She began by saying, “I want to give you some feedback on your work.” With a list in front of her, she began to describe all the things she felt I had been doing poorly. She made little eye contact and had a deadpan tone. As she spoke, my heart pounded, and I began to sweat. I was angry.

The first three were tasks I wasn’t responsible for; my coworker owned those duties. The remaining feedback was unexpected because it was about deliverables others had said were high quality. I had been working for her for almost a year and she had never indicated I was doing anything wrong. Not only did I feel dumped on but half of it was flat-out wrong.

While I did correct her on the items that were inaccurate, I stayed silent on the other stuff. I left the meeting upset and feeling dejected. I decided she was a bad boss, held a grudge, and quit for full-time graduate school soon after.

Certainly, I could blame my manager. Her approach to giving feedback was dismal. What I have since learned, however, is that we can’t control the abilities of our bosses. All we can control is our reaction to them. Moreover, bosses make mistakes—they’re not perfect. What I regret most, though, is not sticking around to talk about it.

I didn’t stand up for myself because I didn’t know how. Instead, I acted impulsively. Speaking up when you get inaccurate or unfair feedback is a skill that anyone can develop. I have, and you can too. Here are some tips.

What to say when a boss criticizes your work

Often, the first reaction to hearing feedback is to agree or disagree with it. Do neither. Instead, say thank you, even if it’s unfair or inaccurate. The majority of bosses are uncomfortable giving feedback, and they might be fearing your reaction. Saying thank you will help neutralize emotions for you both. You also demonstrate a willingness listen, which shows maturity and professionalism. It might sound like, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

If you find your heart-racing or a strong reaction coming on, you might say, “Thank you. Can I have some time to process this?” Giving yourself space and time to consider the feedback is helpful, and showing your ability to receive it well is even better..

Ask questions and take notes

With cooler emotions, it’s easier to ask questions and have a dialogue. Seek out examples and context. Inquire about your manager’s expectations and what about your performance, specifically your work, isn’t meeting the expectation. Get clear on the frequency of the issue. Is this a one-off issue or a repeated pattern of behavior?

The more insight you can get into your boss’s evaluation of you, the more targeted you can be about addressing it. Also, keep in mind this is an evaluation of your work performance, not you as a person. Keep your mindset focused on the work. Beating yourself up or continuing to feel dejected won’t help you move forward.

Seek out other feedback

Your manager’s opinion is a single data point. While it’s an important one, it is still the perspective of just one person. Seek out feedback from trusted colleagues to gauge how significant it is. Let’s say your boss thinks you’re always late to meetings but you disagree. Ask your coworkers. If they agree, then you know this is a big problem.

If they don’t, then you make sure you are on time for every meeting you’re in with your manager from now on. This is about the having the ability to adapt your behavior to the expectations of others. It is a skill that will serve you well throughout your career.

Step into their shoes

Try on some empathy for your supervisor. This is to seek an understanding of their experience. Do they have a heavy workload? What kind of manager do they have? Are they under a lot of pressure? When they gave you the unfair feedback, is it possible they were just having a bad day?

Giving your boss the benefit of the doubt isn’t just helpful; it’s humane. This was my biggest regret in my interaction. I remember my boss being under a lot of pressure, and we all worked long hours. I could have given her more grace, which is to show kindness even though I thought she didn’t deserve it. Instead, I held a grudge.

Be intentional about responding to the feedback

This was some advice I received many years later: Be obvious to your boss that you’re acting on it. Let’s say your boss thinks you’re not being a team player and communicating well with the team. After you have worked more closely with your peers, tell your manager. It might sound like, “To keep you updated, I met with Alice today to discuss how our work connects.

It was a good meeting, and we plan to meet regularly.” Bosses are busy and may forget to pay attention to your efforts. Being obvious about your efforts can help. Getting corrective feedback at work is expected. It is information intended to improve performance, but sometimes, it will be wrong or feel unfair. How you handle it is an indicator of your ability to maintain positive and productive relationships at work.

This feedback will no doubt sting, but by keeping your emotions in check, talking it through with your boss and others, and then taking action, you’ll be on the right track to handling these situations effectively.

Source: The Best Ways to Respond to Unfair Feedback at Work

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The term workplace bullying describes a wide range of behaviors, and this complexity makes addressing it difficult and often ineffective. For example, most anti-bullying advice, from “anger management” to zero-tolerance policies, deals with more overt…

While the organizational costs of incivility and toxicity are well documented, bullying at work is still a problem. An estimated 48.6 million Americans, or about 30% of the workforce, are bullied at work. In India, that percentage is reported to be as high as 46% or even 55%. In Germany, it’s a lower but non-negligible 17%. Yet bullying often receives little attention or effective action.

To maximize workplace health and well-being, it’s critical to create workplaces where all employees — regardless of their position — are safe. Systemic, organizational-level approaches can help prevent the harms associated with different types of bullying.

The term workplace bullying describes a wide range of behaviors, and this complexity makes addressing it difficult and often ineffective. Here, we’ll discuss the different types of bullying, the myths that prevent leaders from addressing it, and how organizations can effectively intervene and create a safer workplace.

The Different Types of Bullying

To develop more comprehensive systems of bullying prevention and support employees’ psychological well-being, leaders first need to be aware of the different types of bullying and how they show up. We’ve identified 15 different features of bullying, based on standard typologies of aggression, data from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), and Ludmila’s 25+ years of research and practice focused on addressing workplace aggression, discrimination, and incivility to create healthy organizational cultures.

These 15 features can be mapped to some of the common archetypes of bullies. Take the “Screamer,” who is associated with yelling and fist-banging or the quieter but equally dangerous “Schemer” who uses Machiavellian plotting, gaslighting, and smear campaigns to strip others of resources or push them out.

The Schemer doesn’t necessarily have a position of legitimate power and can present as a smiling and eager-to-help colleague or even an innocent-looking intern. While hostile motivation and overt tactics align with the Screamer bully archetype and instrumental, indirect, and covert bullying is typical of the Schemer, a bully can have multiple motives and use multiple tactics — consciously or unconsciously.

Caroline mediated a situation that illustrates both conscious and unconscious dynamics. At the reception to celebrate Ewa’s* national-level achievement award, Harper, her coworker, spent most of the time talking about her own accomplishments, then took the stage to congratulate herself on mentoring Ewa and letting her take “ownership” of their collective work. But there had been no mentorship or collective work.

After overtly and directly putting Ewa down and (perhaps unconsciously) attempting to elevate herself, Harper didn’t stop. She “accidentally” removed Ewa from crucial information distribution lists — an act of indirect, covert sabotage.  

In another example, Ludmila encountered a mixed-motive, mixed-tactic situation. Charles, a manager with a strong xenophobic sentiment, regularly berated Noor, a work visa holder, behind closed doors — an act of hostile and direct bullying. Motivated by a desire to take over the high-stakes, high-visibility projects Noor had built, Charles also engaged in indirect, covert bullying by falsifying performance records to make a case for her dismissal.

Workplace Bullying Myths

Common myths about bullying — for example, that it’s simply “holding people to high standards” or having a “competitive personality” — suggest that bullying does not harm and may even spur performance. However, bullying and the myths about it hinder outcomes.

A common assumption is that bullies are often star performers and that high performance justifies bad behavior. However, the actual star performers are more likely to be targets than bullies. Bullies are usually mediocre performers who may appear to be stars, while in fact they often take credit for the work of others. Moreover, bullies are not motivated by organizational goals.

They’re driven by self-interest, often at the expense of organizations. Research indicates that bullies often envy and covertly victimize organization-focused high performers — those who are particularly capable, caring, and conscientious. Not only are bullies not the stars, but one toxic employee negates the gains of the performance of two superstars and likely creates additional costs.

The “motivation” myth justifies bullying as “management” or “motivation,” helping low-performing individuals improve. Indeed, low performers are more likely to experience bullying than mediocre ones — but it does not help them improve. Rather, it can further hinder performance, creativity, collaboration, and delivering on business goals due to employee distress.

Ineffective Interventions

Research has thoroughly documented that bullying is detrimental to individuals’ productivity and organizational outcomes. Unfortunately, even when organizations attempt to address it, the interventions are rarely effective.

Traditional methods of addressing bullying tend to be unsuccessful for several key reasons…..Read more…

Source: How Bullying Manifests at Work — and How to Stop It

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How To Deal With Weaponized Incompetence at Work

Photo: fizkes (Shutterstock)

We’ve all dealt with co-workers who are bad at their jobs, but very good at making their incompetence your problem—from the boss who over-promises, (only to expect you to do all of the work) to the co-worker who can’t quite do their job, (but is all too happy to pass their work off to you).

This habit of feigning incompetence at a task, so as to make it someone else’s responsibility, is called “weaponized incompetence,” and can show up at work in a number of different ways. Sometimes the co-worker may be genuinely incompetent; other times, they are capable of doing the work—they just don’t care to. Either way, their refusal or inability to do the work properly ends up becoming your problem as you are blamed for their failures or forced to take on work they will then take credit for.

How to recognize (and deal with) a boss’s weaponized incompetence

One major sign of weaponized incompetence in a boss is when they seem clueless about what it actually takes to finish a project. They might assume a particular a task takes 2 hours to complete, rather than the more realistic 12 hours. Or they don’t having a good sense of what their employee’s workload actually looks like.

For some bosses, this cluelessness may be genuine. For others, this incompetence is strategic, as they’ve learned they can make a whole bunch of big promises, the hard work of which will get passed off to their employees, who then have to scramble to get the job done, which the boss will get credit for pulling off, when in reality, they offered very little support.

“A lot of leaders get this way because organizations encourage this and reward it,” said Tessa West, a social psychologist at NYU and author of the book Jerks at Work: Toxic Coworkers and What to Do About Them.

This then turns into a self-repeating cycle, where the incompetent boss will make promises, force their employees to carry it out without offering much support, and then reap the rewards of their accomplishments, counting on the fact that they’ll be promoted into a different group before higher-ups realize just how little they did.

“The higher and more powerful someone is, the easier it is for them to get away with not doing what they should, often because they don’t want to do it and know that they can get away with it,” said Daphne Jones, a breakthrough career coach and author of the book Win When They Say You Won’t.

There is strength in numbers when dealing with a boss like this: “Their kryptonite is having their targets discover each other,” West said. If people can get together and show a pattern of incompetence, it’s easier to show upper management what is really going on, and how it is affecting productivity. “Widespread problems are scarier to a boss than one-off conflicts between two people,” West said.

How to recognize (and deal with) a co-worker’s weaponized incompetence

Similarly, if a co-worker can’t (or won’t) carry out a number of tasks that would be expected of them, given their position, that is a red flag. “In certain positions, people are expected to have certain broad or specific capabilities and competencies,” Jones said. “If you have them, your coworker likely should, too.”

If they don’t have these skills, they could either be in an ill-fitting role or their incompetence could be their way of passing off these responsibilities to others. When it comes to dealing with co-workers like these, Jones recommends assuming good intentions, but to try and find a way to address the situation, either with your co-worker or with your boss. “It starts with good communication,” she said.

If your relationship with the co-worker is good, you can try asking them if they are aware of any blind spots they might have. If not, it can help to bring up your contributions with your boss, as a way of ensuring that you are receiving proper acknowledgment for your work. “Let [your boss] know in a matter-of-fact way, not as a complaint, of the status of your project achievements and also how you assisted the other person who has deployed weaponized incompetence,” Jones said.

Source: How to Deal With ‘Weaponized Incompetence’ at Work

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Critics By

Incompetence means different things to different people, but generally it denotes the inability to do a job to a satisfactory standard. If an employee completes a task on time, without errors and the way he was asked to do the work, the employee is considered competent. If the final product goes beyond what was asked of the employee, the employee is more than competent. Signs of an incompetent employee include work being submitted late, over budget, with errors or requiring considerable help from others.

Simple Laziness

A common cause of incompetence is laziness, which can lead to errors, lateness and other problems. Not double checking your work is an example of incompetence, since anyone can do that. If you include typos in written communication, these can lead to making your company look unprofessional or can cause other departments to make mistakes. Not bothering to check the status of a project you are managing or not asking for commitments in writing are other examples of sloppiness and carelessness, since you can easily do these.

Poor Communication

Just because you give someone instructions doesn’t mean you’ve done your job, says India Employer Forum. Signs of an incompetent manager include a trail of incompetent employees. A competent employee asks coworkers or clients if they received the message, if they understand it and if they can meet the request.

Waiting until deadline to learn that a project won’t be delivered is another form of incompetence – you should check in with key stakeholders during the course of a project to evaluate its status. If you are not able to properly and clearly communicate your thoughts or your superiors’ instructions to others, leading to problems at work, you are not competent to work with others, no matter how good your intentions.

Lack of People Skills

Companies need to attract and retain customers and employees to stay in business. Examples of incompetence at work due to a lack of people skills include being tactless, overbearing, rude, unclear, upset or not inspiring confidence in the people with whom you work. Driving away a key employee because you only point out his faults and never praise him is an example of managerial incompetence. Trying to acquire a potential customer by telling her she is doing something wrong and making her feel stupid is another example of incompetence.

Lack of Training

Through no fault of your own, you may be given a task for which you have no training or experience. For example, an excellent salesperson can be promoted to a sales manager position, coordinating the activities of the sales department. If that person has no experience creating departmental budgets, setting sales goals, determining prices based on a company’s costs and the market demand and supply, designing commission plans, developing sales materials and otherwise operating as a manager, he could fail. According to Russell HR Consulting, training is one of the main causes of incompetence in the workplace.

Related contents:

“Pharmacists, nurses and physios to ease GP fit note burden from next month”. Pulse. 9 June 2022. Retrieved 25 July 2022. Rajeev Syal (8 January 2016). “Maximus miss fitness-to-work test targets despite spiralling costs”. The Guardian. Retrieved 14 January 2018.

Litchfield, Paul (December 2013). “An Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment – year four” (RTF). publishing.service.gov.uk. London: The Stationery Office. Retrieved 27 December 2018.“ESA – descriptors to determine whether you have ‘Limited Capability for Work’ – Sense”. sense.org.uk. Retrieved 26 October 2015.

“Benefits rules changed for terminally ill claimants”. BBC News. 10 March 2022.“Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)”. gov.uk. “Work Capability Assessment independent review – year 5 – Publications”. gov.uk. Retrieved 11 September 2015.

“Employment and Support Allowance: outcomes of Work Capability Assessments, Britain” (PDF). September 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2015. “ESA: WCAs, mandatory reconsiderations and appeals” (PDF). gov.uk. 8 December 2016. Editorial (23 November 2008). “The benefits of welfare reform outweigh the risks”. The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2015.

“A guide to Incapacity Benefit – The Personal Capability Assessment” (PDF). Jobcentre Plus. Retrieved 7 January 2016. McCue, Andy (16 March 2005). “Atos Origin wins £500m government BPO deal”. silicon.com. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Editorial (23 November 2008). “The benefits of welfare reform outweigh the risks”. The Guardian.

“Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future” (PDF). DWP. December 2008. “ESA Amendment Regulations” (PDF). March 2011. “David Cameron warns of a new ‘age of austerity'”. The Guardian. 26 April 2009.

“The Coalition: our programme for government” (PDF). “Mental Function Champions « Atos Healthcare blog”. atoshealthcare.com. Retrieved 14 September 2015. “Government response to the WCA independent review – year two” (PDF). “ESA and UC: changes to the WCA”. gov.uk. 29 September 2017.

Williams, Helen (8 February 2001). “Maintaining a harassment-free workplace: APC”. apsc.gov.au. Australian Public Service Commission. Archived from the original on 28 March 2012. Tehrani, Noreen (August 2004). “Bullying: a source of chronic post traumatic stress?”. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling. 32 (3): 357–366. doi:10.1080/03069880410001727567.

Rokonuzzaman, Md.; Rahman, M M (2011). “Workplace Harassment and Productivity: A Comprehensive Role of Strategic Leadership”. Journal of General Education. 1 (Dec): 41–50. ISSN: 2223-4543. PDF

Productivity Commission, “Psychosocial hazards”, in Productivity Commission (ed.), Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health and Safety (PDF), Government of Australia, archived from the original (PDF) on March 7, 2014 Landau, Philip (2017-03-29). “Bullying at work: your legal rights”. The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-08.

Lewis, Jacqueline; Coursol, Diane; Wahl, Kay Herting (September 2002). “Addressing issues of workplace harassment: counseling the targets”. Journal of Employment Counseling. 39 (3): 109–116. doi:10.1002/j.2161-1920.2002.tb00842.x. Text.

Brooks, Rosa Ehrenreich (1999). “Dignity and discrimination: toward a pluralistic understanding of workplace harassment”. Georgetown Law Journal. 88 (1): 14–20. Pdf. Ezer, Marius; Ezer, Oana Florentina (November 2012). “Workplace harassment, mobbing phenomenon”. Perspectives of Business Law Journal. 1 (1): 298–304. Pdf.

U.S. Department of Labor. “What do I need to know about – workplace harassment”. dol.gov. U.S. federal government. Retrieved March 17, 2015. Layden, Dianne R. (1996), “Violence, the emotionally enraged employee, and the workplace: managerial considerations”, in Curry, Renée R.; Allison, Terry L. (eds.), States of rage: emotional eruption, violence and social change, New York, New York: New York University Press, pp. 48–49, ISBN 9780814715307.

Williams, Christine L.; Giuffre, Patti A.; Dellinger, Kirsten (1999). “Sexuality in the workplace: organizational control, sexual harassment, and the pursuit of pleasure”. Annual Review of Sociology. 25: 73–93. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.25.1.73. JSTOR 223498.

Fitzgerald, Louise F. (October 1993). “Sexual harassment: violence against women in the workplace”. American Psychologist. 48 (10): 1070–1076. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.48.10.1070. LeBlanc, Manon Mireille; Kelloway, E. Kevin (June 2002). “Predictors and outcomes of workplace violence and aggression”. Journal of Applied Psychology. 87 (3): 444–453. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.87.3.444. PMID 12090602.

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Tesla Hit By 6 More Sexual Harassment Claims

Six women currently or formerly working at Tesla’s San Francisco Bay Area electric auto factory and a Southern California service center have filed suits against the company led by Elon Musk claiming they were sexually harassed by fellow employees and that the company failed to take any action.

The suits were filed today in Alameda County Superior Court and follow two earlier lawsuits against Tesla filed in November and this month by women who also say they were harassed by coworkers. Separately, a former engineer at SpaceX, another Musk-led company, published a blogpost earlier today detailing her experiences of sexual harassment at the aerospace firm.

The six women suing Tesla–Michaela Curran, Alize Brown, Jessica Brooks, Alisa Blickman, Samira Sheppard and Eden Mederos–are represented by attorney David A. Lowe, a partner at the firm Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe in San Francisco.

“Tesla has failed to take sexual harassment seriously, from the top of the company down,” Lowe said in a statement. He also referenced a crude joke Musk tweeted in October about starting a university called the “Texas Institute of Technology & Science” and comments he’s made about former employees.

“Elon Musk tweeting a lewd comment about women’s bodies or a taunt toward employees who report misconduct reflects an attitude at the top that enables the pattern of pervasive sexual harassment and retaliation at the heart of these cases.”

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment and currently doesn’t have a public relations team. Musk also didn’t mention the matter on his Twitter feed (though he did have time to post tweets critical of Massachusetts Senator Elisabeth Warren).

The numerous stories of sexual harassment at Musk’s companies come a day after Time Magazine named him its person of the year. In October, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million to a Black employee who had sued the automaker for racial discrimination. 

In the six suits filed on Tuesday, the women describe a workplace environment where it’s normal for women to be catcalled, ogled, touched inappropriately and propositioned. In their suits, the women describe the frequent use of crude language and groping by male colleagues–and the failure of supervisors and human resource department staff to take action.

Musk is the world’s wealthiest person, with a fortune Forbes estimates at $251.9 billion. Tesla shares fell 0.8% to $958.51 in Nasdaq trading on Tuesday.

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Source: Tesla Hit By 6 More Sexual Harassment Claims

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