The Way We Work

Ouch — you did a job on oDesk and the employer gave you a bad feedback rating. Especially if you’re a newer contractor, that low number of stars can hurt your candidacy for future jobs. But it’s not the end of your oDesk career. There are several ways to react to negative feedback that will minimize its effect on your career. Here’s how to think it through:

Is the feedback right? Look at the rating and, especially, the employer’s comment. Sometimes negative feedback is warranted, and if you really didn’t meet the standard — your own and the employer’s — you’ve got to face up to it:

  • Apologize. Contact the employer and express sincere regret, and explain that you take his or her feedback very seriously.
  • Fix it. Ask whether you can make things right. Consider offering a partial refund, if you’re really at fault, or offer to re-do the piece of work they had issue with. Ask if these efforts would entice the employer to then adjust the feedback comments to indicate that you’d made extra good-faith efforts to fix the issue.
  • Focus. Going forward, make sure that you’re applying to jobs that really fit your skills, and make sure you understand what’s required when you start (maybe develop a “getting started” checklist).

Is the feedback wrong? If you feel the feedback doesn’t accurately reflect your performance, start by contacting the employer. In professional, conciliatory tones, say that you’re very sorry he or she is displeased, and ask to discuss it.

  • Ask for a change. If, after hearing your side of the story, the employer agrees that his feedback was too harsh, ask him to modify it. This change would be solely at the employer’s discretion, and requires you to use your best relationship-building and communication skills to make sure you are both walking away feeling positive about the outcome.
  • bad feedback
  • Leave feedback. You can represent your perspective in the feedback you leave. Remember that you don’t want future employers to see you as defensive or whiny when discussing previous work. A valid response to feedback that unfairly says you did a bad job might be: “Employer was unclear on job parameters, slow in communication. Lesson learned: I need to ask for more initial communication on expectations and deliverables next time.” Make sure your feedback is accurate — if the employer disputes your feedback (with records of your communication, for example), you can end up worse off than when you started.
  • Dispute the feedback. oDesk rarely removes feedback — battles of opinion are difficult to referee. However, if the feedback is provably untrue (i.e. – you have written emails from the employer asking you to do exactly what their feedback is complaining about), or violates the feedback rules, you can dispute the matter through Customer Service.
  • Hide it. You can hide the comment associated with the feedback. Trouble is, future employers can see that you’ve hidden the comment, and that looks suspicious — they’re liable to imagine something worse than the actual comment.

Now what? Once you’ve dealt with your unhappy employer and analyzed any shortcomings on your part, you still have to land your next job. Here are three ways to move forward:

  • Learn the lesson. If you messed up … don’t do that again. If you feel the fault was with the employer, look for ways to prevent such incidents in the future, such as warning signs in job posts, or by insisting on very clear communication about expectations.
  • Cash in on good will. If you have a long-term contract in progress, ask that employer for a review and feedback. The employer will need to close your current contract, give you feedback, then rehire you to your position. If you’ve got a good ongoing relationship, this shouldn’t be difficult–and gives you the opportunity to reinforce your existing relationships.
  • forward thinkingBounce back quickly. While long-term jobs are the best way to build your online work career on oDesk, look for a series of quick jobs that can quickly produce several high-quality feedback scores, to counterbalance that one bad rating.
  • Own it, explain it. In some cases, you may wish to address the negative score, either in your profile overview or in your cover letters. Remember that employers are suspicious of defensiveness and excuses. Don’t go with: “A crazy past employer sabotaged me!” when staying professional will serve you better. Something along the lines of “You may see that I had a particular case of negative feedback. I hope that won’t discourage you from interviewing me — I’d be happy to explain the incident and how I’m making sure such a situation doesn’t happen again.” Maybe your overview mentions your pride in managing deadlines. If that’s what got you into trouble on the one bad job, try saying: “I also strive to manage my workload to avoid blowing deadlines — a lesson I learned quite well in my one case of low feedback.”

Feedback — the ability to build your reputation as a remote contractor — is a key part of what makes the oDesk platform work, but one bad review need not be a career-breaking disaster. If you face it head-on, look at where you made mistakes and how you can honestly present yourself moving forward, it can be just one small dip on a long, successful career path.

Have you ever made a comeback from bad feedback? Tell us how you recovered from it in the comments below.

Brian McDonough

Freelance Writer

Brian McDonough has been a writer and editor for more than 15 years, and has managed teams of in-house and freelance writers for newspapers, magazines and web sites.