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Handling Criticism at Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 12 May 2016 | comments*Discuss
Feedback Criticism Constructive

Getting feedback at work is important if we’re going to learn and grow from our mistakes and understand how to do things better.

Unfortunately, however, many people have negative connotations about the word ‘criticism’ and some people take it very personally. There are correct ways to handle criticism and a few other things you should take into consideration too.

Consider The Critic

Firstly, if you are getting criticised at work you need to consider where the criticism is coming from. Is it from someone you respect and are they qualified to judge your work? Is the criticism even about your work or is it personal?

If you feel that you’re being criticised by somebody who doesn’t have the right to judge you or if their comments are not helpful, it’s best to just rise above it, keep your emotions in check, ignore it and carry on with your work. In some instances, the person making the criticism might just be simply trying to get you to rise to the bait. By remaining cool, calm and collected, their efforts will have been in vain.

There are two main types of criticism – constructive and destructive.

Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is useful in terms of pointing out where you may have gone wrong but the person making the criticism will always make a point of telling you this in a tactful manner and will also offer solutions in how you might do things better or differently.

Anyone making constructive criticism will understand that it’s a two-way process so they should be willing to let you ask any questions as to how you could have done things differently and be prepared to answer those. With constructive criticism, you need to bear in mind that the critic is only trying to improve your performance and trying to help you achieve that so you should never take this form of criticism personally.

Instead, once you have asked any questions to establish exactly where you’ve gone wrong and how you can do things better, thank the critic for their observations. Then, start to make use of their comments and begin putting their recommendations into practice.

Then, speak to the person after completing the task in question and ask them if things are better this time. This kind of two-way feedback session can often be a huge motivating factor in learning how to deal with criticism better and how to improve performance after being criticised.

Destructive Criticism

Criticism which is destructive serves no useful purpose at all. It can damage a person’s self-confidence. The important thing, however, is to recognise it for what it is and not to let it affect you. Destructive criticism can often manifest itself as somebody showing frustration.

For example, your boss might be having a bad day and, not thinking, he may yell at you and simply tell you that you’ve made a stupid mistake without even telling you what it was or what you could have done better. Even if you recognise that this is what’s going on, it’s still important to ask the person what you’ve done wrong (if they’ve not pointed that out) and to ask them how you could have done it better.

This, at least, gives them the opportunity to calm down and to turn their destructive tone into something more constructive. However, if they fail to do that, the best remedy is to simply ignore their comments and get on with the job in the best way you know how.

That way, if you are genuinely making mistakes but no one is telling you how to put them right, then at least you can always fall back on the evidence if you’re criticised for the same thing again. By saying, “you never told me what I was doing wrong” or “you never told me how I should go about doing it”, you’re at least pointing out the error of their ways if the same thing comes back to haunt you again later.

One thing you do need to bear in mind at work with destructive criticism, however, is to ensure that it doesn’t lead to victimisation or bullying. That is not acceptable and there are laws to protect you from that.

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