How to Bounce Back After the Boss Gives You Negative Feedback

Dear Office Mom,
I just started a new job with a new company, and my boss told me she thinks I am “trying too hard”. I am shocked. I guess I was just excited and trying to do my best. I was hired because of my background and because in my last job I got great reviews and was promoted several times. She said I was coming on too strong, and I was intimidating to my team. I don’t know what to do. I’m keeping my head down and just doing my job. How much should I change, or should I start looking for another job now?
— Danielle
As a young professional, it’s important to learn how to approach your manager about a problem early in your career.

As a young professional, it’s important to learn how to approach your manager about a problem early in your career.

Dear Danielle,

Thanks for writing. I'm sure this was disheartening. No one wants to hear this kind feedback at the start of a new job. You don’t say if your boss gave you any specifics, but, let me see if I can provide insight from my years of experience.

When people go from one job to the next, the culture, management, and co-worker dynamics can be vastly different. Factor in being a new manager, different personal communication styles and a 99.9% chance there were internal candidates who wanted the job you landed and there’s potential for conflict. That’s why many onboarding programs suggest going slow to find out who’s who and what’s what. And it makes sense. But, you can get past this and come out stronger than before. You’re not the first person to get slapped down, but remember you have a job to do. Here's what I suggest. 

Take time to review team dynamics

Take some time to reflect so you can get on with it. It may not have been your intention to come on too strong with your new direct repots, but in reality you may have, because that’s how others perceived it. It’s that whole perception = reality thing that can be a real bitch sometimes. Not everyone appreciates direct, straightforward communication as much as I do, or possibly your previous boss or co-workers. Not to say that's your style, but you get my message.

Try to isolate the what/when/why/how of it all. Were you properly prepared for the new role? Was the transition handled well? Is your boss a strong female leader? Did you replace a male manager? Are guys having a difficult time relating to a strong female manager? Who wanted the job you landed? Was that acknowledged?

Follow-up with your manager

Cycle back with your boss and tell her you want to be successful. Let her know you’re working on the feedback and the perception. Ask if she has any suggestions about how you might modify your approach in meetings or individual conversations so others don't perceive you as being so intimidating. Or, how might you be more approachable? Then, find out what learning and development opportunities are available at your new company.

Take a personality assessment

A personality styles assessment like 16 Personalities, the Disc Personal Profile, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, or, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator might be helpful to you and your team members.

Keep your head up. Don't forget you were a rock star in the past and as you say that got you where you are now. Keep capitalizing on what you do well and tweak the rest. In my opinion, that's what good leadership is all about. Good luck!