We’ve all had feedback that’s hard to take, makes us want to run for the hills or have the ground swallow us up on the spot.

It’s time we got over the fear.

Here’s why: feedback is invaluable! All of it – the good, the bad, the ugly and even the downright terrifying.

I’ve got a question for you. What happens at your organisation when you receive negative feedback?

Is it:

  • A) all kinds of hell breaks loose, everyone hides under their desks and the office goes into shutdown mode
  • B) you ignore it. Who needs feedback? You know you’re doing a great job 99% of the time so this one doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things
  • C) your comms team investigates what’s happened and replies with a measured, timely and well thought out response

Now you’re probably thinking ‘why would anyone tick box A?’ Okay, it’s a slight exaggeration, but trust me when I say I’ve seen and heard similar things happen more than a few times.

So the big question is this: why are we so terrified of negative feedback? It’s only natural after all. As the saying goes, no one is perfect.

Third sector professionals want to deliver quality, effective services. If people give feedback about what could or should be done better, we have a duty to listen. Once we move past that initial shock, we should dust ourselves down and remember that feedback is actually invaluable.

a negative review is not the end of the world. It gives us an opportunity to think, to improve

At Good HQ we held focus groups with members of the public to find out their thoughts on the platform. One piece of striking feedback for me was, ‘everything is five stars. The site doesn’t seem very credible.’ Because of the perceived fear of negative feedback, we’ve been so busy focusing on gathering positive feedback we didn’t stop to think about this important observation.

The thing is, if we only ever receive positive feedback, what use is it?

How do we learn to do things better?

Improve our services?

Reach more people?

Get more funding?

We all want the organisations we work for to be successful, so shouldn’t we get over the fear of hearing how we can improve?

If you’re like me and are searching for something to do or a product to buy, you might use a review website to check out its credibility. As well as reading the good reviews, one of the first things I do is read the ‘terrible’ and ‘poor’ reviews.

Why? Because I want to know what people are complaining about. Would those complaints bother me? Is it a credible complaint? And, perhaps most importantly, did the organisation respond and how?

Those terrible reviews don’t necessarily stop me going somewhere, doing or buying something. They just make me think. And that’s what we need to remember in the third sector. A negative review is not the end of the world. It gives us an opportunity to think, to improve, to respond and perhaps start a conversation.

Now I’m not saying that every negative review your organisation might receive will be justified. Some feedback will be brutal and unfair. Remember sometimes negative reviews are written in the heat of the moment, they’re loaded with emotion and anger. However, how your organisation responds is what matters. A response that says ‘hey I’m listening to you, I’ve received your feedback’ speaks volumes. It shows that you’re listening, and that you’re not afraid to respond to a review and tackle it directly.

So, next time you receive a negative review, don’t run for the hills. Gather your colleagues, discuss the feedback, take it on board (and on the chin), and learn from it.

One great way to do this is sign up to Good HQ, show people that you want to hear their feedback – the good and the bad – and that you’re really listening to what they have to say.