Imagine sending your manager your business proposal that you stayed up for a few nights to complete, and he suddenly calls you in to express his dissatisfaction towards the ENTIRE document plus orders you to redo everything. What would your reaction be? Would you take it personally and get discouraged, or would you see it as an opportunity to grow?
We've all been there, although the circumstances need not be the same: It's the fear of being criticised by others. Yet, whether you like it or not, we'll all face criticism at some point in our lives, be it at work, at home, or out in public.
So, what is criticism? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it refers to "the act of giving your opinion or judgment about the good or bad qualities of something or someone". In a workplace where everyone may be a critic in one way or another, that means you're likely to receive some feedback that can sometimes be constructive or destructive.
How criticism is conveyed makes all the difference. It's considered 'constructive' if the comment given is positive and encouraging, but it's 'destructive' when the comment is negative and depressing. Take a look at the table below to better understand each criticism:
At work, criticism can come through official channels such as a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor or higher management. It can also happen more casually and organically, like receiving suggestions from a co-worker on how to improve the project you're working on.
Regardless of the source, criticism of all types can be an essential part of an employee’s life. While it might be challenging to deal with, it can also be beneficial towards your career growth.
There are numerous ways to deal with criticism, both good and bad. Fortunately, you have the power to control how you respond to every positive and negative input, as well as use them to your advantage, so choose wisely!
One of the most fundamental ways of benefiting from workplace criticism is to be willing to listen. Open up your mind to take note of any critique from anyone in the office, and always assume that they have good intentions.
Allow yourself some time to think about the issue and the situation. Even if the delivery of the criticism might sound awful, keep in mind that it may not be intentional.
It's also a good idea to restate the feedback to make sure you’re both on the same page. This will give you some time to process the comment and ensure that you don't misunderstand anything. While you're at it, practice acknowledging and thanking people for their contributions.
Your first reaction, whether verbal or nonverbal, can be perceived as a reflection of your maturity and professionalism. When it comes to responding to criticism, your facial expressions and body language are just as important as your words.
Nonverbal communication is also thought to be more truthful by others. As a result, it's a good idea to take a deep breath and consider how you'll react to any criticism, so you don't end up saying something you'll regret later on!
This will also give you a chance to gather your thoughts and manage your body language and facial expressions. Try to always maintain eye contact and avoid crossing your arms. Open body language will make you feel less defensive.
For most people, having spent hours upon hours at work every day will have them think that their job is an extension of themselves.
If this is the case for you, taking a hit on your work performance can make it seem like a personal attack, and dealing with that can be difficult.
Always remember that mistakes at the workplace are not reflections of your character, and as humans we're bound to make them as part of our evolving process, so try not to take them personally.
Whenever you're in doubt and have trouble understanding certain feedback, ask clarifying questions. Make no assumptions until you’ve done so. By asking for clarifications, you can gain a clearer grasp of their views, and where they are coming from.
They'll be urged to justify rather than leave you with vague comments that will not help you improve in any way. Now, the following are some examples of possible questions you can use:
Scheduling a follow-up will demonstrate to your critic (especially your superiors!) that you've been paying attention and are committed to improving your performance at work.
Develop and present strategies in a scheduled meeting, to tackle the issues they've brought up. Not only will the critic feel valued and heard, but you'll also gain the benefit of increasing your rapport and demonstrating that you're a team player.
This will also serve as a platform for you to make any sensible counter-arguments if there are any aspects of the criticism with which you disagree. With stronger emotional control, you can express your case calmly, and help people see your point of view.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out, especially after working so hard to keep your emotions under control! It helps to be able to communicate with other trusted people when this happens.
Find a mentor, a colleague, or a friend with whom you can share the criticism and your thoughts/opinions. This is a good way to get feedback from individuals whom you trust, and also give you a chance to be open and honest about your feelings without being too hard on yourself.
You never know when you might learn something valuable from someone else's experience that you can apply in the future.
Some people are outspoken in their criticism, while others are more reserved. Regardless of how it seems and whether it is positive or negative, you still have to face it. Even if it can be difficult to manage, always remember that you have complete control over your feelings.
You can try the tips below to improve how you feel about any criticism you get and better handle the situation the next time it arises:
If, after doing everything you can, the critic persists with their feedback and you recognise that the criticism you received is unfair, delivered in a harsh tone, or constantly done in public for everyone to hear, you must start taking extra precautionary measures.
This is especially when the situation continues despite your calm and respectful efforts to persuade to bring them round to your view. It's time to request for a meeting with someone higher up the ladder.
Consider getting approval from a superior and do not launch an attack. Rather, make sure to include all pertinent information and convey both sides of the argument. Remain cool and rational when presenting why you think your side of the story makes more sense.
Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to improve the situation for the company's advantage, so don't make things any more difficult than they are.
It’s a very different situation indeed, getting criticised by your boss as compared to getting criticised by one of your subordinates. Let’s look at the comparison below:
Employees usually question your credibility or even your decision. Even if the critic is someone lower down, it doesn't hurt to open your mind and listen to what she or he has to say.
Consider their points and determine whether or not the criticism is fair. If you find some truth in their feedback, act on it and make an effort to improve yourself.
Have the humility to acknowledge your shortcomings and the confidence to do things differently. This will help improve the relationship between you and your subordinates.
Meanwhile, don't be alarmed if your boss criticises your work style or your position at the office. Criticism doesn’t always mean that your job is in jeopardy. It indicates that your boss expects to see some improvements from you.
The most important thing is to demonstrate that you are a team player who is willing to improve yourself. It doesn't hurt to say, "I'm eager to learn how I can improve my performance" or “How can I restore your confidence that this is being managed well?”
At the end of the day, you should be able to deliver the change. Determine a reasonable period for making the changes and ensuring that they are implemented.
It is beneficial to foster a feedback culture in any workplace to encourage personal and organisational development. However, being criticised, no matter how well you handle it, can be a traumatic experience.
Therefore, it's important to realise that the comments don't define you as a person, and that all you want to do is learn from the circumstance. Even if you believe the feedback has harmed your reputation and credibility, see it as a learning experience.
The bottom line is that you need to digest the feedback by absorbing what is truly useful to your development and discarding the rest, such as harsh words and rage. Only then will you realise that workplace criticism can be extremely beneficial.