Feedback Retaliation & Getting Triggered


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We’ve received a couple great questions around feedback from #shiftyestribe members this month. A couple of common dynamics with feedback are: 1) the fear of retaliation from giving feedback and 2) how to handle getting triggered from feedback that is upsetting or really difficult to hear.

If you’re in the process of building a culture of feedback, your team is definitely going to experience some of the growing and learning pains of this process. Even if feedback is a regular thing for your team, it’s important to be proactive and address these common challenges. Let’s get into it.

1. When feedback isn’t safe for fear of retaliation.

First of all, if you are a leader asking for feedback, let that person know (and mean it) that you’re here earnestly in service of your own growth and improvement. They need to know it’s safe to be honest and that you really do care about their perspective. And prove it. Don’t you dare retaliate against people, let them share their experience with you, whether you agree with it or not. The only consequence they should face for telling the truth is you thanking them and taking what they’ve said to heart. Their willingness to be brave and honest with you is a gift. Make that a safe space. Whether you agree with what they’ve said or not, it’s true for them. And if you don’t like what you’ve heard, recognize it for what it is: an opportunity to improve how you’re showing up in their eyes and their experience with you. How they feel about you as a leader is tied to their performance in a hundred different ways, so make it a priority.

If you are an employee dealing with a boss or coworker with a history of taking things poorly or retaliating: first of all, that’s an earmark of low emotional intelligence and an unfortunate trait in a boss or colleague. Ultimately it’s important to use some discretion. It may not be safe to give feedback - some people are not emotionally mature enough to receive it. Use your best judgment. Also, if you do work up the courage to have a conversation, other content we’ve shared like this guide to effectively frame a feedback conversation will likely be extremely helpful for you to bring some language and tools to give you a good shot at having a great outcome.

2. Dealing with feedback that is upsetting, or annoying to you.

If you have the courage to seek honest feedback, then you are likely going to hear things that you don’t like or agree with. That’s the nature of the beast, and what it takes to improve personally and how you’re showing up in your role.

First of all, remember that the moment you’re getting feedback is not also the moment that you have to respond. Especially if you don’t like what you’re hearing, let that moment be a time to just listen to what’s being said, without needing to respond or defend, or deflect, or justify anything you hear. If the conversation requires more discussion, it’s completely acceptable to ask for time to process and think about what they’ve said and to take a moment to step away and reflect. That can look like “Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’d like to take some time to reflect and think about what you’ve said, and I want to have more of a conversation around this. Can we come back to this later today or tomorrow?”

Taking a moment away allows you to do a couple things: It enables you to remove yourself from an emotionally triggered state, when you might not respond with a level head. It also gives you the opportunity to step back and, if you need to, process and talk it over with an impartial third party, to ‘empty your cup,’ process your thoughts, gain some input, and come back to the conversation in a more productive way.

Even if you completely disagree with feedback that you receive, remember that other people’s experience and perspective are true for them. Whether it’s your behavior, or their experience, or a combination of both, striving to improve and do better is a worthwhile endeavor.

This content was created by Galen Emanuele for the #shiftyestribe. Free leadership and team culture content centered on a new focus every month. Subscribe to the Shift Yes Tribe at