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I recently had to deliver a report to another person, Alice, who is however not above me in the office structure. The report is not vital, but should be done anyway to complete the paperwork for the office.

Alice had some remarks, so I had to rewrite the report for her (Alice signs it off). It didn't bother me to write it again, however I just find that the remarks were not in the interests of the business.

I need to adjust titles, make some minor rearrangements, and make a separate document rather than simply append it to the original. These are all minor cosmetic changes that don't affect the content and more busywork than actual improvements to the actual content of the document.

I told Alice something to the effect of "I can make the fixes fairly easily, but I need to know how you want it because I don't think the current form will get approved.

I think Alice took this as my being defensive. I'm not and have no reason to be because her comments were to style, and not content, but even if they had been about content, I would have just fix it and not be concerned.

My problem is the more I try to convince her that I am not upset, the more she thinks I am.

How can I make it clear to her that taking constructive criticism isn't a problem for me? The only thing that does irk me a little are little digs like "it's not difficult", which I guess I should expect.

  • Now, two questions @TMOTTM : Why do you think Alice thinks that, how can you be sure? also, why do you care she thinks that way? You can always just don't break your head wondering if she thinks you feel that way and just move on – DarkCygnus Jun 14 '18 at 18:30
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    Sorry man writing on a mobile phone and not a native speaker, no offence taken – TMOTTM Jun 14 '18 at 18:32
  • Sure, i move on. I cant help but think that i appear as if i feel critisized, i do think the remarks are not really helpful or relevant to the business. Alice says things like „its not a big problem“ once i wanted to reply to her remarks. But yeah, maybe just another office day.. – TMOTTM Jun 14 '18 at 18:36
  • I do and see a lot of things I don't think are relevant, but the other party, in this case Alice, thinks otherwise and you just have to suck it up and do it. – user41891 Jun 14 '18 at 18:46
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    IMO your colleague is the one who does not accept well criticism. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 14 '18 at 20:33
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It sounds like although you don't mind the feedback, you're not thrilled by it either. Some people are good at reading emotions and Alice may be able to tell that you think her feedback is a waste of time.

I'd do three things to make it less difficult

  1. Smile and say "thank you for the feedback"
  2. Implement the feedback quickly and completely
  3. When you have done this hand back and ask if she can see "any more room for improvement"

The point is just to be totally upbeat about it, use positive language and body language. Make sure you use positive words like 'improvement', or 'enhance' rather than neutral ones like 'change' or 'edits'. Be quick so that she knows you value her feedback, and then make it clear that you are happy to have more as it is "improving" the document.

  • I quite did that, guess its the most professional option. Initially, it just collided with me being driven by purpose and wanting to do something for the company. But lets face it thats not always the point. – TMOTTM Jun 19 '18 at 6:06
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Wouldn't it be great if everyone was polite and considerate in the workplace? It sounds like some sensitivity and tact is needed in your situation.

Here are my favorite lectures on this topic. They talk about some essential conversation skills that are needed in situations like the one you describe here.

Including:

  • Be open about what you're after, but occasionally use indirect language so as not to be off-putting or insulting
  • Giving someone conversational air by highlighting a speech act (in your situation, you could simply state you value the feedback because you're hungry to make the report awesome)
  • Preventing awkwardness and diffusing it after it occurs

If some time has passed - you might simply shoot her a little IM or talk with her to 'clear the air' and explain you appreciate her feedback and want to do a good job.

  • Last point about "after the dust settled", i totally want to do that, because I actually think its nice to get along with Alice. – TMOTTM Jun 15 '18 at 17:12
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The first thing you should do is pull a previous submission of this report and look at how it's stylized. I find that it's quite commonplace that people want each report to look how they want it to, but then the final report that goes on file needs to look like the other documents the department produces, even if they look bad. Reduce waste by getting on top of this kind of stuff, first.

That doesn't answer your question, though. Ignore whatever slights you're perceiving here, and take her list of changes, make them, and then submit the report to her. Thank her for the clarifications and directness. Whoever she submits that report to, if they don't like it, they're going to send it back with comments for her to make changes, anyways.

I constantly write reports, SOPs and other regulated documents for my department that come back with an entire page of comments, and receive edits from some 7 people. There are multiple filters at work often times, and no one has to nail a document on draft or revision 0. Let other people's expertise work for you when it can. Also consider that she isn't going to sign off on the report unless it's worth putting her signature on in her eyes.

And don't keep bringing it up as if it did bother you when it didn't, because that could make it awkward for Alice.

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