Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Employee Dwelling on Negative Feedback

DEAR HARRIETTE: I conducted a workshop for a client, and we did a survey to see how the participants felt about it. I thought it went really well, and most of the participants agreed and shared bits about their experiences in the comments. About a third of the participants didn’t like it, though. I know I shouldn’t hold on to those negative comments, but I can’t help myself. I feel like I can do better and may be able to win everybody over. I’m wondering if I should ask the administrator if I can contact the participants to ask for more feedback.

My direct supervisor told me that she thought the survey reflected well on my abilities and added that nobody gets a perfect score. Should I leave it at that? I just feel like I can probably do better if they tell me what they want. -- Survey the Participants

DEAR SURVEY THE PARTICIPANTS: Our natural inclination, as human beings, seems to be to become fixated on imperfection. I believe this is something that we should resist. You just explained that you received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the survey results of your workshop. That is excellent. Accept that. It is OK to take note of any areas where you can improve, but you should not attempt to identify participants who may be able to further clarify their thinking. Typically, surveys are anonymous, so finding out could be challenging anyway. Instead of focusing on the negative comments, accept them and work on whatever was pointed out. Build on where you are. And know that it is normal for some people to offer criticism. Take it for what it’s worth, but do not amplify it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just turned 21, and I decided to dye my hair. I’m still in college, so it’s not that big of a deal there. I’m worried that my conservative parents will blast me when I come home from school and they see me with green hair. I think it’s fun, but I know how cautious they are about everything. I needed to do something for myself, and I figured this wasn’t so bad. I can always dye it back. I can do it way before a summer job interview. But also my field of interest is more liberal than that of my parents. It might not be an issue for work. How can I get my parents to lighten up? I know it’s going to be an problem when I see them. -- It’s Just Hair

DEAR IT’S JUST HAIR: You already know that your parents take the stands that they do out of caution for your health and your future. They are part of a different generation, for whom it was much harder to get a job and build a successful life if you presented yourself in any type of extreme way.

Your job is to educate them. For starters, you can explain that hair color can be changed easily, so when it is time for you to apply for jobs or internships, you can become more conservative -- if that is what you choose. You do need to point out that it is now time for you to begin to make independent choices that may not always reflect theirs. This doesn’t mean that you do not love or respect them. It means that you have to live your own life.

Let them know that you do not intend to do anything to embarrass them or yourself, but that you realize that you are not as conservative as they are.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)