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Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership Part 11: Receiving Negative Feedback

We’re nearing the end of this 12-part series of the warning signs of toxic leadership that has, hopefully, provoked some reflection and caused you to look at yourself in a different light.

Looking is a great start. Reflecting is important. But don’t stop there. Create a plan to work on whichever one(s) of these 12 blind spots has potential to derail you. Now that you know, you have the power to avoid stalling out in your career or negatively affecting your team.

If the persona we’re presenting today describes you, getting started may be more challenging than it is for others. You may be unaccustomed to acknowledging the need to work on yourself, which includes receiving negative feedback. Don’t let that discomfort prevent you from doing something about it. Left unchecked, these issues only get worse. They can become the root of a bad reputation and even manifest as toxic in the workplace.

Related posts:

Warning Signs of Toxic Leadership: Are You The Artful Dodger?

Graphic Shown Type of Toxic Leadership - The Artful DodgerLa la la la la la la la la la. I can’t hear you. And I don’t want to.

If you don’t get feedback, you won’t have to deal with the sting of criticism. If you can externalize blame, you don’t have to accept responsibility or experience embarrassment or admit making a mistake.

So, metaphorically, you keep your fingers in your ears and refuse any critique or feedback. You dodge and deflect and dance around anything that might suggest room for improvement. Or at least it looks that way to others.

Whether real or perceived, you may be seen as someone who:

  • Denies, deflects and dodges responsibility or opportunities for improvement.

  • Externalizes blame and refuses to acknowledge how you could have done things differently.

  • Is defensive and unwilling to hear constructive feedback.

  • Lashes out at those who attempt to give you constructive feedback.

  • Cannot be vulnerable or humble enough to disclose personal limitations or growth areas.

In the past, this has served you well or manifested as a positive when:

  • You wanted to minimize the amount of constructive criticism you received.

  • It felt necessary to distance yourself from blame or the sting of criticism.

  • You doubted the intentions of the person offering feedback to you.

  • You were performing at such a high level that your areas of weakness were less important.

  • You felt too fragile to accept or even consider the feedback being offered.  

Maybe this persona isn’t who you really are. It’s not who you intend to be. It feels unfair to be labeled this way. Nonetheless, if people see you as The Artful Dodger and believe you don't know how to take criticism at work, something caused them to see you this way. For them, this is real.

What Can I Do if I Hate Receiving Negative Feedback?

Graphic Shown Type of Toxic Leadership The Artful Dodger

Make sure you don't have a blindspot when it comes to your soft skills or style. Take the free, self-paced course called The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness to build transferable skills and improve the quality of workplace interactions. 

If you’re encountering a potential blind spot, feel stalled in your career, or are struggling with interpersonal skills in the workplace, you might benefit from working with a certified executive coach. Most senior-level executives have worked with a professional coach at some point in their career. Check out this Forbes article for more about the benefits of coaching.

Ultimately, YOU are responsible and YOU are in control of your choices about how to lead and how to interact with others in the workplace. Now that you’ve got awareness, it’s time to take action.

If you are, indeed, The Artful Dodger, here are some immediate actions you can take to change others’ perceptions and exhibit these behaviors less frequently.

  1. View others’ feedback as helpful or instructive, intended to support your growth.

  2. Remember that it’s not easy for others to offer feedback. They do it because they care.

  3. Hear and process feedback before responding to it. You may find some useful insights when you practice receiving feedback effectively.

  4. Model what inviting and graciously responding to negative feedback looks like. Then others can hear yours, too.

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to make these changes, you should know that there is an impact to being perceived as The Artful Dodger. There’s an impact on people you work with.

There are also consequences for you, including:

  • The biggest risk you take when you allow Artful Dodger behaviors to go unchecked is that people will give up on you. If they’ve tried to help and you denied or dismissed the need for help, they will stop trying. If you seemed defensive and counter-attacked, they may avoid you entirely.  

  • By not acknowledging your own areas for improvement or not taking responsibility for the mistakes you’ve made, you’re holding others to a higher standard than you are willing to meet yourself. At least that’s how it appears to others. Your unwillingness to hear their feedback makes them unable to hear yours.  

  • You also run the risk of appearing arrogant. As you work to mask your skills gaps or deflect criticism, it could be inadvertently signaling that you think there’s no need to grow, improve or change.    

This choice is yours. Choosing to deny, ignore or embrace your Career Roadblock characteristics are all legitimate choices. You don’t have to change a thing.

On the other hand, if these behaviors or perceptions are preventing you from reaching your goals, it’s also a legitimate choice to modify what you’re doing.

Either way, put yourself in control. Be aware of the perception, your choices surrounding that perception,  and the impact of being perceived in this way.

How Can I Learn More About This Career Roadblock & Others?

The Artful Dodger, and failure to learn how to handle criticism, is one of 12 behavior sets that can become career roadblocks. When others are observing the issues with someone who is stuck and has these blind spots, they frequently use terms to describe these roadblocks (e.g. “control freak” or “dinosaur”).

You can learn about all the career roadblocks that lead to toxic leadership by following this blog series.    

career roadblock take a quest