How do you react when you receive lukewarm (or negative) feedback on your work?
Receiving and responding to feedback at work can be challenging, especially when it’s critical or unexpected. This applies to people at all levels and in all kinds of roles and I found myself reflecting on this point after seeing Black Sabbath play in Melbourne, Australia recently.
What amazed me more than anything was that I was standing there watching the band who is widely revered as having invented heavy metal, and they felt the need to ask for the audience’s love, as if the feedback they were receiving was not meeting their expectations.
The room was already filled with love; I could sense it in the pre-show meanderings around the venue and the stadium floor. There were people of all creeds of rock, aged from their teens to their senior years. Everyone was there to see Sabbath and united in the love of rock and metal.
The band was amazing, and Ozzy Osbourne did what Ozzy does, but Ozzy was flat at times and it was those songs which received some of the most lukewarm crowd reactions. These reactions may have been an anomaly on this, their final world tour (possibly a symptom of what is traditionally a tough rock n roll crowd in Melbourne), but what I found disappointing was that here stood a certifiable music legend asking the audience for a better reaction.
When a performer asks the crowd to “make some (more) noise” after a mediocre performance I immediately cringe, especially at a rock show, as if hiphop’s tradition of demanding crowd participation has infected the otherwise fine institution that is rock n roll. Being a performing musician of 30-odd years I believe you have to earn the audience’s love, and it doesn’t matter how successful or famous you are.
If it was a two way conversation I would say “Ozzy, maaaate. You do what you do, perform well, give it your all and entertain me, and trust me, I will make some noise, but please, stop asking for it.” I think a lot of people in the room felt the same way.
At work, we always talk about ‘the love’. We regularly go the extra mile to please our clients and their audiences because we want to earn a great reaction (and of course the repeat business that goes along with successful projects). However, to quote Sigmund Freud, “we are never so vulnerable as when we love”, which is why I believe adopting this mind-set at work can make feedback challenging at times. If Ozzy “The Prince of Darkness” Osbourne finds a mild round of applause difficult to swallow, what hope do us mere mortals have?
Imagine receiving lukewarm (or negative) feedback from a client mid-project. Imagine then saying: “Aw come on! Tell me you loved it more. Make some noise!” You wouldn’t. (Please, tell me you wouldn’t). So what do you do with that feedback?