How to take negative feedback and run with it

When you ask for feedback, you have to be ready to take the rough with the smooth. Here are three things to remember when faced with unfavourable responses from your staff

Christian Pountain

How to deal with negative feedback

When all is said and done, there is usually a lot more said than done.

This is often the issue that underpins poor communication across schools and academies. Even a well-thought-out staff survey becomes meaningless if all the data collected leads to nothing.

So, when you do get feedback – whether positive or negative – it’s important to act on it. Here's how.

Remember the school vision 

The importance of your school vision in this process simply cannot be overstated.

If, as a school community, you are not clear on your vision, then this should be your starting point. Make it a priority and work on it fast. If your vision is understood and bought into by all, you have a ready-made barometer by which to test the climate of all manner of expressions of school life, including staff wellbeing.

Any staff concern can be checked against the vision. If the staff member is right, they will be drawing your attention to something that undermines the vision and is toxic to the school’s purpose, therefore needs dealing with as a priority.

Your next senior leadership team meeting can then look at how to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

However, if the concern doesn’t touch the vision, then it could simply be a case of helping that member of staff, or possibly the whole staff, to recapture the vision.

A crystal-clear, well-articulated vision provides an invaluable hand of restraint to prevent you from responding with knee-jerk reactions to every tiny concern someone raises.

Staff Pulse

You can’t please everyone

Creating a successful school is a long journey. Some people will enjoy the ride, but there will be others who might want to get off before you reach your destination: the vision.

It’s important, therefore, to retain those teachers who share your desire to make it to the end point. And don’t be tempted to waver from your destination for the sake of a few dissenting voices.

If you keep your eyes on the vision, very quickly you’ll find that most of your passengers are really happy to be there. Just keep driving.

Find a balance

Finally, it is worth noting that, as much as we want to do all we can to help our staff with their wellbeing, the bottom line is that we are public servants with a job to do, and our schools are places of work.

Finding a balance between hard work and excess workload is difficult. Ensuring staff are driven and tasked with the things that make a difference, and not required to do endless admin or attend fruitless meetings, will help maintain this equilibrium.

Make sure any negative feedback around workload is taken in context. The time of year the feedback is given could be key, which is why asking these questions on a regular basis is crucial.

Staff Pulse

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Christian Pountain

Christian Pountain is head of RE and director of spirituality at a secondary school in Lancashire

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