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How To Handle Criticism At Work

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Oct. 31 2022, Published 8:00 a.m. ET

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In the workplace, it’s likely that you will receive criticism from your manager or even your colleagues at some point or another. While criticism is nearly always intended to be positive and constructive, it can still be hard to deal with. Most people naturally become defensive or sad when they are criticized at work, especially if they can’t see what they are doing wrong.

However, receiving constructive criticism is intended to help you learn and can actually be extremely beneficial to your career. While it does take practice, there are methods you can use to help you understand the benefits of criticism and respond in an equally constructive way. Richard Evans, a career mentor and founder of The Profs, has shared his top tips on how to deal with criticism at work in a positive way.

1. Relax and listen.

The first step to accepting criticism is to listen carefully and remain relaxed. If you act irrationally or are fixated on arguing your side, you might miss the valid points in your manager or colleague’s argument. When you spend time understanding what is being said and why they are saying it, you might find that the criticism is not as bad as you first thought. Having a relaxed mindset will help you to respond in a fair and constructive way.

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2. Ask questions.

Before going into a negative defense, try asking questions to make sure you are really understanding your critic’s point of view. Again, once you understand exactly what needs improvement and why, the criticism may not be as bad as you first thought. Avoid engaging in a debate and instead get to the root of the actual issues being raised so that you can work together to find solutions to them.

3. Don’t take it personally.

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The most common mistake people make when dealing with criticism is taking it personally. Although it can be hard not to take it to heart, in most cases, criticism at work won’t be directly linked to you as a person. In fact, in a work environment, constructive criticism is an important part of a manager’s job as it helps their employees to grow and improve.

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4. Don't make excuses.

Letting your manager or co-worker know your side is encouraged, however be careful not to become defensive or make excuses. Try to approach criticism in a positive and constructive way by owning up to any mistakes (we all make them!) and explaining what you will do differently moving forward.

5. Offer your appreciation.

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This can be the hardest part in the process, but it’s very important. Make sure you thank your critic for sharing their feedback with you and let them know you appreciated them taking the time to offer their opinion. Expressing your gratitude doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they’ve said, but it does show that you acknowledge the effort they’ve made and that you’re willing to continue to improve and grow as an employee.

This article was written by Sophia Anderson and originally appeared on Your Coffee Break.

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