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Organizations are run by people. So, when organizations find themselves in the midst of a sticky situation, they often react as individuals do—emotionally and with more attention on the negative than the positive. But negative feedback, even a lot of negative feedback, can create a distorted perception around a crisis and create the false impression that the overwhelming sentiment is negative.

Leaders stay focused on what the organization is trying to accomplish. Here are a few examples of how different organizations responded well to that distortion field of negative feedback.

Four Ways To Respond To Negative Feedback
  • A school announced a controversial decision and heard only from the naysayers because the supporters of the decision had no cause to make their opinions known. So the school heard only from those who opposed the decision and put a disproportionate focus on negative feedback. As a result, the school chose to survey all of its stakeholders to learn how the decision was perceived, what messages were received, and what questions people had regarding the decision, so the school could adjust future communications accordingly.
  • A governor made a controversial decision and most of the feedback he received was negative because the supporters of the decision had little reason to make their opinions known. But when the media looked at public response to the governor’s office, they found a vast majority of responses were negative. In response, the governor both defended his position and positioned supporters to serve as sources for journalists, increasing the likelihood of balanced coverage in the future.
  • A transportation department announced an infrastructure project, but the responses they received to the project were almost exclusively negative because the supporters of the decision had little reason to make their opinions known. Except that the public perception is of overwhelming opposition to the project. Per good communications protocol, the department hosted public meetings and provided an open-comment period for the public to make its opinions known and inform the overall project.
  • A CEO shared that the company supported particular legislation, and only the naysayers sent emails in response because the supporters of the decision had little reason to make their opinions known. The CEO’s decision aligns with the supporters’ beliefs and they are pleased to hear it. Except that the deluge of negative responses led the CEO and leadership team to start questioning their decision. Upon reflection, the CEO and leadership team decided to stand by their decision, but they will adjust future communications knowing that not everyone shares their opinion.

If you, as an organization or leader, want the feedback on your decisions to truly reflect the majority view, you must ask all constituents to give that feedback and provide effective mechanisms for constituents to do so.

As stakeholder or constituents, we are rarely motivated to write, call or organize around something we support because the decision already feels like a win for us. But the next time an organization makes a decision you support, take a little time to make it known. It gives the decision makers more balanced feedback and gives them more cause to be resolute in their decision.

Want to talk about how to plan for and respond to negative feedback? Email us or call 317-631-6400.

Read more >> Your Crisis Will Happen Fast, So Slow Down