Offering high quality research support services to staffs, referred here as customers, at work is my top priority and a day-to-day routine, for example, helping with project applications. After the completion of each service delivery, feedback is sought from the customer, for example, project manager. His or her opinion about the overall service experience is important so that I am able to improve the quality of my service by adjusting it to fit his or her needs more accurately. Personally, I believe that success in the workplace is dependent on learning new skills and working with diverse team members, while feedback plays an important role and provides input to advance this. However, some customers may engage in nonconstructive feedback, which I call ‘roadblocks to both personal and professional development’. For this reason, I would like to highlight some key points about nonconstructive and constructive feedback including its power from my perspective as a service provider.
On one hand, few people enjoy receiving negative or nonconstructive feedback, no matter how well intended it may be. It discourages people who care deeply about their work and invest many hours serving. Negative feedback might easily make one feel slighted, become defensive and cause mental and emotional harm. On the other hand, I feel that it is equally important to have the power to accept negative feedback and to learn from the comments that are spoken to me or written about me. In any organisational setting, learning how to navigate through such feedback is something that could change one’s life because we are not be able to stop negative commentaries from being spoken to us, but we can change the way they affect our lives. Here is a quote that is generally used as an affirmation of resilience to deal with this scenario, as said by 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche – What does not kill you, makes you stronger comes. This is much easier said than done. From a broader perspective, it is important to understand that words are powerful and it can build people (in this context, service provider) up or tear them down. Words can make a difference and inspire. In the same vein, negative feedback affect us more than positive ones, and negative ones tend to stay with us much longer.
Based on my experience, here are some of the reasons why is it important to be constructive while giving feedback and to refrain from nonconstructive response:
First, constructive feedback helps a service provider to improve both personally and professionally. I am more open to such opinion and eager to modify my behaviour in offering a better service resolving the earlier pitfalls pinpointed by the customer. In fact, I feel that such feedback is essential to grow. I receive it graciously every time to improve the quality of my work. However, upon receiving a nonconstructive feedback, it is uncomfortable to hear, difficult to filter it and decide what, if anything, I can learn from it. At times, the feeling that I am being criticised triggers defensiveness, which in turn prevents me from viewing feedback as an opportunity to improve. My response to these customers would be “Maybe there is some truth behind what you are saying, but the approach could have been different. Be empathetic and mindful when delivering concerns” In so doing, I as a service provider am able to liberate myself from negativity and can become the best versions of myself.
Second, from my point of view, as challenging as it is to provide feedback, it can be just as hard to receive it. It is a difficult skill to master, but it is fundamental to the professional growth of both individuals and organisations. Thus, when customers provide service experience feedback, I feel that it is of utmost importance to critique on the service quality and ways to improve it, rather than targeting a particular service provider’s personhood, which will result in defensiveness. In other words, please do not make it personal. It is important to acknowledge the service provider’s good intentions, consider him or her as a support system, as we both are on a same journey, that is, to successfully submit a project application within the given deadline. Thus, receiving constructive feedback helps me to focus on my behavior and its consequences. I am able to keep my productivity and morale high to propel further. In other words, master a new skill and get it right every time. As a result, customers are able to receive a better service in the long-term.
While both constructive and nonconstructive feedback are valuable, learning from positive critiques will get me a lot further a lot faster. This does not mean that the customer should ignore my work’s flaws or pretending that everything about it is perfect when providing feedback but to engage in constructive feedback. Instead of telling what I did wrong, you can me what can be done better next time.
Existing studies indicate that constructive feedback has the potential to contribute to
- professional development (Ovando, 2006)
- increased self-awareness, offers options and encourages development (Hamid & Mahmood, 2010)
- higher performance and commitment at workplace (Chris, 1996)
- enhanced employee receptivity to feedback, better mood at work and job satisfaction (Kristin & Kulkarni, 2012) and
- improved well-being (Gong, Wang, Zhang & Li, 2014) and reduced stress (Montgomery, Blodgett & Barnes, 1996).
I hope that this gives enough motivation to all customers to engage in constructive criticism when providing feedback and to understand its power for personal, professional and organisational growth.