The Do’s And Don’ts For Responding To Negative Feedback

Have you ever received negative feedback at work? Still don’t know how to respond? Apply these tips for a professional response.

October 16, 2023
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You can’t improve what you believe is perfect. That’s why negative feedback is more good than harm. It compels the recipient to look inward for internal flaws, and when properly addressed, negative feedback serves as a potent catalyst for professional and personal growth. 

Although feedback can sometimes be upsetting and antithetical to work confidence and self-esteem, the responses provided play a crucial role in reaffirming competence and expertise.

Therefore, devising a practical approach to respond to negative feedback is essential.

In this article, we’ll explain how to respond to negative feedback at work and what not to do. We’ll also provide examples of negative feedback responses.

Let’s get right into it.

How To Respond To Negative Feedback At Work

The premise behind responding appropriately to negative review feedback at work in professional manner is to provide an honest and constructive response. This is essential for sustaining relationships and improving the work environment.

Some important guidelines to follow when addressing negative feedback at work include:

  1. Stay calm, and listen actively
  2. Acknowledge the person or the negative review or feedback.
  3. Take responsibility.
  4. Seek clarifications and specifics.
  5. Reflect and analyze.
  6. Express your perspective.
  7. Outline your improvement plan.
  8. Ask for guidance.
  9. Follow up.
  10. Learn, grow, and turn it into positive feedback.

1. Stay calm and listen actively

When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to listen actively.

So, don’t react emotionally to negative reviews. When calm, you can actively listen, comprehend the concerns better, and spot valuable feedback. This helps in maintaining good working relationships (and customer satisfaction).

It’s much harder to see things from another person's perspective when you are not on the same page with the individual. Listening calmly to feedback at work enables you to follow through attentively, spot valuable insights, and channel focus into developing practical ways to respond to negative reviews.

Moreover, remaining calm helps preserve your self-worth, maintain good working relationships with coworkers and company executives, and minimize stress.

Additionally, providing negative reviews or positive constructive feedback can sometimes be challenging for both the sender and recipient. So, it’s necessary that you actively listen before giving a response.

2. Acknowledge the person or the feedback

The next step after listening is to express appreciation for the feedback received and acknowledge the person for their review. Thank the person for their feedback. Acknowledging negative review, especially when you seek primarily positive feedback, reinforces trust and open communication, and is a fundamental aspect of excellent customer service.

Feedback acknowledgment is essential for continuity. It helps cultivate an open communication environment. By signaling that you highly regard professional feedback, you encourage others to share their honest reviews.

It’s also a means of building trust, advancing collaborative discussions, and maintaining competence in the workplace. When you respond defensively to feedback received, you shut down any future reviews from the feedback source, which can be detrimental to your career advancement.

3. Take responsibility

360-degree feedback in the workplace is not enough if you simply acknowledge performance reviews without taking action.

Taking responsibility shows commitment to improvement. It redirects focus from a negative experience to proactive problem-solving, crucial for both business owners and employees.

According to a Harvard Business Review, when negative feedback is handled appropriately, it improves performance.

4. Seek clarification and specifics

Avoid misunderstandings by seeking clarifications, particularly when dealing with long-term projects or complex customer feedback.

This helps you understand the crucial and relevant specifics to address each one successfully. In addition, requesting clarity helps prevent possible misunderstandings, mainly when the performance review involves a long-term project.

Most importantly, further information often provides key inputs and a clear strategy for solving raised challenges.

Here’s a guide by Assembly to obtain comprehensive feedback.

5. Reflect and analyze 

Reflecting on feedback helps you further identify recurring issues and understand the reason for the negative feedback.

Also, it makes it possible for you to examine issues from different viewpoints, including the perspective of the person providing the feedback. This ability is vital for personal and professional growth, allowing you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses.

Hence, you’re more inclined to make better plans for improvement, set more realistic goals, and acquire additional relevant skill sets.

6. Express your perspective 

Whether you're part of the customer support team or a management professional, seeking guidance shows a willingness to improve and enhances collaboration. It’s crucial to state your prior intentions regarding an action when responding to negative feedback. This helps to acquaint the person giving the feedback with previously unknown information and adds more context to actions taken.

For instance, negative feedback from your boss sometimes occurs due to misunderstanding your intentions and processes. Therefore, expressing your perspective lets you clarify your reasons and motivations behind acting in specific ways.

Additionally, employee feedback helps managers understand and appreciate the obstacles employees encounter in completing a task. Likewise, it allows employees to acknowledge errors and proffer solutions.

7. Outline your plan for improvement 

A plan for improvement in response to negative feedback is a sign of true commitment to professional development. When you create a list of specific, actionable steps to address issues raised in the feedback, you hold yourself accountable and set up a measurable framework for monitoring your progress.

Ideally, your plan should contain timeframes for specific milestones. More importantly, the goals set should be realistic. This is to ensure the timely implementation of improvements and objective evaluation of the improvement drive.

It’s good practice for an organization to set up feedback loops where employees can routinely check in with the person providing the feedback or other relevant stakeholders for finessing improvement plans and measuring progress. 

Assembly has the perfect template to set up a feedback loop. Try it Today.

8. Ask for guidance and suggestions

View feedback or bad review as a chance to learn and grow, not as a personal attack. Encourage a culture where both a positive review and negative reviews are seen as opportunities for growth.

Asking for guidance is tapping into the existing wealth of experience and knowledge available at the organization. Furthermore, it demonstrates a willingness to learn and fosters a collaborative work atmosphere. You can also approach feedback to learn new strategies and techniques that can further assist you in optimizing the specific areas highlighted in the feedback.

Moreover, a good feedback response is necessary to sustain business relationships amongst a company workforce and between an organization and its clients. For instance, to improve a product further, a company can establish a means of collecting, reviewing, and storing feedback about the product from users.

9. Follow up

It’s not enough to commence an action plan; more importantly, following through to the end is key. Following up guarantees commitment and helps keep the lines of communication open. 

When following up, schedule discussions with your feedback source and be ready to give regular progress updates. Be willing to listen to feedback on your implemented changes and be open to making further required modifications. 

10. Learn and grow

Your immediate response to a negative comment or feedback should always evoke a forward-thinking mindset and a constructive attitude.

Learning and growing from negative feedback at work involves inculcating a growing mindset and a strong belief that efforts and learning can enhance abilities and intelligence. This mindset enables you to see feedback as an avenue to improve rather than a personal attack.

Continually measure your progress, adjust as needed, acknowledge successes, and maintain an open stance towards positive or negative feedback.

Make the most of feedback sessions using these tips provided by Assembly.

How Not To Respond To A Negative Feedback At Work 

It’s not enough to know what to say; it's also important to know what not to say. An inappropriate response to negative feedback hinders personal growth and can damage business relationships. 

Here’s more detail how not to respond to negative feedback at work:

  1. Defensive Reactions.
  2. Blaming Others.
  3. Avoiding Responsibility.
  4. Anger or Aggression.
  5. Personal Attacks.
  6. Being Closed-Minded.
  7. Minimizing or Ignoring the Feedback.
  8. Avoiding Communication.
  9. Repeating the Behavior.
  10. Lack of Reflection.

1. Defensive reactions 

There’s a high chance that when you receive negative feedback, you’ll be more inclined to become defensive, and that’s completely normal. However, it’s better to hold back from outrightly dismissing or providing excuses as your first response.

2. Blaming others 

When you blame others, accepting responsibility and working towards improving things becomes more challenging. It’s important to refrain from shifting blame to colleagues or circumstances. This can harm your working relationships with coworkers and prolong the realization of productive solutions to the root causes of negative feedback.

3. Avoiding responsibility

Avoiding responsibility robs you of crucial learning opportunities. You miss viable chances to learn from your errors and craft measures to rectify them. In addition, choosing to evade responsibilities may keep you in a state of helplessness, feeling not in tune with your situation and unconvinced about your ability to improve.

4. Anger or aggression 

Responding in anger might discourage others from sharing feedback with you in a timely manner at subsequent times. Reacting with anger or frustration removes the possibility of any form of constructive dialogue. Instead, take a deep breath, create enough physical space for yourself, fully absorb the comments, and then provide a response with a clear head.

5. Personal attacks

Focus on the message and not the messenger. Engaging in personal attacks damages your company reputation and soils any good relationship you could have cultivated and nurtured with colleagues. Personal attacks breed hostilities in the workplace and can aggravate a situation, derailing the goal of a feedback session.

6. Being close-minded

An open mind is receptive to new ideas, methods, and strategies. Not making any changes based on feedback indicates an unwillingness to grow and improve. Flexibility is a valuable workplace skill. 

7. Minimizing or ignoring the feedback 

Regardless of how it makes you feel, don’t always play down the significance of feedback. The more we learn, the better we are. Progress in any sphere of influence stems from embracing the dynamics of growth

Ignoring feedback leads to communication breakdowns between you, your team members, and top management staff. Furthermore, there’s a high chance the issues will keep recurring, hindering personal and professional growth.

8. Avoiding communication  

Communication is vital for many reasons, like seeking further clarification, providing context for every action taken, and, more importantly, informing relevant stakeholders of the action plan for improvement.

Also, people can see avoiding communication as a disinterest in career advancement. An unwillingness to participate in constructive conversations results in strained relationships with key members of your organization’s workforce.

9. Repeating the behavior 

Engaging in the same activities that brought the feedback can be tiring for everyone involved. It not only stalls your career growth and evolution but also makes you appear unteachable, and that’s a challenge for any team.

10. Lack of reflection 

Lack of reflection means not taking time to analyze or critically review feedback received. When you don’t cultivate the habit of reflecting, you increasingly become less self-aware, impairing your ability to better understand your strengths and weaknesses. Unaware of your potential's full depth makes you navigate career obstacles ineffectively.

Negative Feedback Response Examples?

Having gone through the rudiments of how to respond professionally to negative feedback at work, let’s look at practical negative feedback examples using the following headings:

Effective Negative Feedback Response Examples

  1. Open Response: "Dear customer, thank you for your honest feedback. I’m sorry to hear about your experience..."
  2. Acknowledging Responsibility: "As the business owner, I take full responsibility and am immediately working on solutions..."
  3. Seeking Clarification: "Can you provide more details or examples to help me understand better?"
  4. Proposing Solutions: "Here are the steps I’m taking to address your concerns..."

1. Positive or open response 

‘Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude for sharing this feedback with me, and I appreciate your honesty. I deem this feedback very important and would be very grateful if you could provide more details on the issues raised so I can fully comprehend them and work towards resolving them.’

2. Acknowledging responsibility 

‘I want to affirm that your feedback is well-informed, and I accept full responsibility for the shortcomings you have raised. I remain focused on effecting appropriate changes and would like to discuss a plan to tackle these issues.’

3. Requesting guidance 

‘I highly value your feedback and look forward to making the necessary adjustments and enhancements. Could you please provide me with suggestions on how to solve the problems you highlighted?’

4. Explain or clarify 

‘Thanks for your feedback. May I provide context or further information regarding the product design? I want to ensure a clear understanding.’

5. Reflecting on feedback 

‘I have extensively pondered and analyzed your feedback, and I agree there’s a need for improvement on my part. I would love for us to collaborate on making this happen.’

6. Propose solutions or next steps

Thank you so much for your feedback. ‘Here are some steps I'll take to address the issue: [solutions or actions].

7. Ask for feedback on solutions 

‘Firstly, thank you for sharing this feedback with me. I would like to hear comments on the proposed solutions. Are there any additions or tweaks you would like to suggest?’

What’s A Good Response To Negative Feedback?

An excellent response to negative feedback at work is professional, constructive, and tailored towards turning every negative into a positive.

Excellent negative feedback response creates an avenue for constructive dialogue and a pathway to improvement.

By following the guidelines highlighted in this article, you can successfully transform negative feedback into a positive growth experience while maintaining professionalism and productive business relationships.

Leverage the power of feedback using Assembly.

Negative feedback is a blessing in disguise. Professionally handled, it becomes a learning experience, enhancing skills and business relationships, resulting in a positive impact on career and organizational growth.

In an environment of open communication, employees are more likely to provide honest, critical feedback. Preventing negative reviews starts with how we approach bad reviews and handle them.

Utilize tools like Assembly for setting up effective feedback and review responses systems, ensuring smooth and efficient customer engagement and reputation management.

Whether you’re giving negative feedback or receiving it for a few reasons, following best practices is important.

Furthermore, a company’s workforce is more willing to provide negative feedback only in an environment where open communication is practiced and constructive feedback is accepted and acted upon for better outcomes.

Assembly is a top-rated HR tool for setting up a real-time feedback and performance review system, making giving and receiving feedback smoother and more effective. Its reward feature also helps to recognize significant achievements by employees, effectively encouraging them to act on negative feedback and see it as an opportunity for professional development. Book a Free Demo Today.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

Explore Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

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At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

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We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

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If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

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Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

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