Goodbye, Haters: Learning How to Navigate Feedback in the Workplace

Some women, like me, have a tendency to internalize feedback and criticism in ways that can be harmful. It is important to understand that feedback is a tool in your personal and professional development, but also that not all criticism should be taken to heart.  

Receiving feedback, especially in a formal setting, can be nerve-wracking. I’ll be honest, my body betrays me when I’m getting negative feedback or criticism. When I’m really mad, I cry. Despite my very best efforts, tears will well up in the corner of my eyes. I keep telling myself, “Don’t you dare cry!”, but that just makes it worse. So, the way I have come to deal with it is to step back and try not to let the feedback or criticism make me angry. I come at it from a different place. I stop and remind myself that if this person is giving me feedback, they must care about me and my development. Otherwise, they would simply ignore me or avoid me, right? If you are like me, I suggest you take a “time-out” from the conversation and come back later. Maybe even make a joke about the tears if that feels authentic for you and try again. 

I also encourage women to seek feedback in less formal situations. There’s no need to set up a meeting and sit across from each other in a conference room or in your office. Take a walk, or approach your boss or supervisor while hanging out in the “coffee bar” or break room. The conversation doesn’t have to encompass everything you’ve worked on that year, but can instead focus on the big projects. I like to use these opportunities to highlight something I know I’ve done well. For instance, I would say, “Dave, do you have any feedback on the hearing?” followed by, “The client told me I killed it!” This approach is two-fold— it gives Dave the opportunity to give me feedback on a real-time basis and also gives me the opportunity to remind Dave that I am good at my job and valuable to our team and clients.

As women, we have to remember that not all criticism or feedback is correct. Men, generally speaking, seem to be better able to brush off criticism as “someone else’s fault.” The reality is that, many times in our careers, we will receive criticism and feedback that just isn’t accurate. People have other agendas, and sometimes that includes knocking you down a level or putting you “in your place.” Even if the feedback is not given with malicious intent or to further a personal agenda, it may still be ill-informed or biased. Always be honest with yourself and consider whether there is truth in the feedback you receive, but keep in mind that sometimes, there just isn’t any. That’s the feedback and criticism you should walk away from.  

Ignoring incorrect feedback and criticism is extremely difficult to do. I remember almost every bad thing someone has said to me—sometimes it’s all I hear in my head. My internal bully has a loud, persistent voice that I practice quieting. I’m working on being my own biggest cheerleader, and in turn letting others know when they have done a good job. 

You also need to find a tribe of people (not just women) who will help you quiet that inner bully. My husband often tells me, “If you saw yourself the way the rest of us see you, you would rule the world!” I try, really I do, and succeed maybe 70% of the time. But I also am fortunate to have friends, colleagues and mentors who remind me and tell others how great I am, and who are honest with me about where I can improve. Everyone should surround themselves with people like that. Say goodbye to the haters, especially the one in your head. Use feedback and criticism as a tool to better yourself, and the rest of it can go to hell!

This article was published and shared from Debevoise Women's Review

Monica Blacker Leaves Jackson Walker to Pursue New Opportunity Promoting the Advancement of Women.

After over four years as part of Jackson Walker’s Bankruptcy practice group, Monica Blacker will be leaving the firm to start a consulting business with a focus on empowering women and giving them tools to advance and thrive in their careers. In her new endeavor, BAX Advisors, LLC, Monica will continue to serve as a speaker on various topics, including professional development for women and unconscious bias. She will also consult with organizations on implementing and improving their women’s initiatives.

While at Jackson Walker, Monica has seen tremendous success representing a diverse group of creditors and debtors in restructurings. She represented the largest unsecured trade creditor and co-chair of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the Chapter 11 proceedings of Energy Future Holdings Corporation (formerly known as TXU). Other highlights of her career include securing the full recovery of a $492 million loan on behalf of a special servicer in the Chapter 11 proceedings of PJ Finance Company.

Since joining Jackson Walker, Monica has been a driving force behind the firm’s Jackson Walker Women (jw2) initiative. In addition to serving on the Committee, Monica has arranged the group’s meetings, volunteer outings, and networking events. She has taken an active role in mentoring young female attorneys both in developing business and in serving their communities.

“Monica has been an integral part of jw2 since the time she joined the firm,” said Debbie Robinowitz, Committee Chair of the jw2 Initiative. “Her passion for issues surrounding women in the workplace has benefitted all of the women at Jackson Walker as she has worked tirelessly on multiple fronts, including the education of attorneys within the firm.”

Monica has also contributed to the development of women attorneys and professionals outside of the firm. She has served as Committee Chair and on the Host Committee of the Women on the Move Luncheon, on the Sponsorship and Planning Committee of the National Association of Women Lawyers, and is the 2018 Chair-Elect for the International Women’s Insolvency & Restructuring Confederation Dallas-Fort Worth Network. She is a sought-after speaker who provides entertaining and insightful presentations on a variety of professional topics.

“Monica embodies all of the characteristics we hope to see in our lawyers at Jackson Walker,” said Managing Partner Wade Cooper. “She has demonstrated an aptitude for leadership, particularly in guiding and mentoring other women at the firm. We wish her all the best in her new venture and look forward to seeing what the future holds for BAX Advisors.”

Though the attorneys and staff at Jackson Walker are sad to see her go, we are pleased to see Monica move on to pursue her passion. She will continue to be a resource for Jackson Walker and the jw2 Initiative.

“I can’t thank Jackson Walker enough for giving me a platform to empower women and for their unwavering support,” said Monica. “I will miss my colleagues, but look forward to our new relationship.”

To follow Monica’s new endeavor, follow BAX Advisors on Twitter or Instagram. For inquiries related to BAX Advisors, please contact or visit

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Bragging Rights: How to Effectively Complete Your Self-Evaluation

By Monica Blacker

Brag. It’s not a four-letter word. Though, as women, we sometimes shy away from bragging, even at times when it matters most. This trait can cause women to miss out on opportunities to advance their careers, particularly when it comes to self-evaluations.  However, with an organized and purposeful approach, women lawyers can go forth and claim the recognition they deserve.

In order to conduct a successful self-evaluation, it’s important that you do the following:

1. Understand how compensation is dealt with at your firm

How can you prepare an effective self-evaluation if you don’t know what you’re being evaluated on? Make sure you know what metrics are important for your compensation.

In addition, before beginning your self-evaluation, carefully read and follow the instructions provided by your firm. The easiest part of your self-evaluation should be ensuring that the final version is the correct length, carefully inputted, and turned in on time. I suggest you respond in bullet points and not paragraph form to make it easier for the reader.

It’s also helpful to review your organization’s business plan or marketing materials to make sure your self-evaluation is aligned with the firm’s goals.

2. Take credit for what you did

Keep in mind the “we versus I” concept. Being a team player is a great, but your self-evaluation is the place to take ownership of the successes you have produced. Be enthusiastic about your accomplishments and write with authenticity and pride. A self-evaluation isn’t the place to highlight your team.

When writing your self-evaluation, make sure the size and importance of your projects are clear. Dollar amounts are key, so state the value of transactions, trials, and projects you have worked on and identify the benefits to your organization. Include your hours and collections figures in the description, however, don’t rely on numbers alone.  Tie your responsibilities and accomplishments to your numbers and explain why your numbers show important contributions.

Instead of writing an account of everything you did that year, focus on the most meaningful assignments and highlight your top deals instead. Emphasize any significant increases in your performance and address decreases in your numbers head on with plans for how you will increase performance in the future.

If you managed other lawyers, paralegals or personnel, include their hours or collections in your descriptions. You should also discuss the people you work with: executives, partners, peers, junior colleagues, and staff at your organization. Your interactions with the individuals you work with can help showcase your professional development.

Use action words that identify you with positive results; organizational, leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills as well as initiative and creativity are likely to be the traits valued by your organization. Avoid emotional words or vague, sweeping generalities. Your evaluation should be clear and concise and use specific examples asmuch as possible.

3. Keep a glory file during the year

To make the preparation of your self-evaluation easier, keep a file during the year with your accomplishments and kudos. Whether it’s a file in your email, a list on your phone, or a hard file in your desk, no one can remember all the praise and excellent results they received over the past year. Having a list/file, will make drafting your evaluation infinitely easier. I’m lucky, my husband helps keep my list and he highlights items that I wouldn’t list because I see them as “part of my job.” He is a great reminder of the many things I do that actually go above and beyond.

Don’t wait until the last minute to start writing your evaluation. If you keep a list of your accomplishments during the evaluation cycle, this process will be easier and you will be more focused in your drafting.

4. Have someone else review your self-evaluation before you turn it in

Ask a more senior colleague or good friend to review and comment on your self-evaluation once you’ve written and carefully edited it. If they are on the compensation committee, even better. If you can, get a male to review your self-evaluation and help you address point number two above.

Though your evaluation is the place to brag, avoid exaggerations and overstatement. Make sure your evaluation is credible and that all of your key points can be supported. Most importantly, consider whether your self-evaluation gives the reader a good sense of what you do at the firm and how you do it well. If it doesn’t, then you should try again. Keep in mind, many evaluators read hundreds or thousands of evaluations every year.

In closing, a successful self-evaluation will clearly communicate your successes and their significance to your practice, clients, and the organization as a whole. It will give the reader a sense of who you are and what you do well.

The information in this article was presented at the 2017 Women’s Mentoring Circle program, hosted by the Dallas Women Lawyers Association (DWLA) and Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (DAYL).

About Monica Blacker

Monica Blacker has been practicing as a business workout and restructuring attorney for more than 20 years. In addition to practicing law, she has played a significant role serving on the committee for Jackson Walker Women (JW2), an initiative dedicated to the attraction, retention, and promotion of women professionals. She has spearheaded many women’s initiatives at Jackson Walker, including programs and opportunities for women attorneys to build strong networks to sustain successful and satisfying careers.