This is how some people handle criticism at work
A senior leader in a meeting told me that feedback is a gift. How can you ever improve if you don’t know where you need to shore up your skills or work habits?
That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten and it has changed the way I think about negative feedback.
Now I use that line on my teenage daughters. I’m not so sure they think feedback is a gift… just yet :)
- Julie P.
Many people get defensive or sad when they’re criticized at work. In many cases, the workplace has no feedback culture in place and people are not trained to give or receive criticism in a constructive manner. Giving and receiving negative feedback constructively takes a LOT of practice!
The best way to receive negative feedback well is to follow these 7 steps:
Actually hear what’s being said. If necessary, ask questions to make sure you understand the criticism fully.
Here’s an example:
I reiterate what she said so she knows that I was really listening and since my boss likes to teach and is very detail-oriented, I’ll ask her if she can give me a few tips on how to perform the task better and throw in a few suggestions as well to get her feedback.
I end the conversation by asking where I’m doing well so I can keep up the good work which is my way of helping her to remember where I excel.
This also shows her that out of everything that I do, she’s got few complaints and gives her the confidence to give me more responsibilities.
2: Assume good intentions
Unless proven otherwise, assume good intentions. Don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that the person criticising you is “out to get you.” Of course, sometimes they are. If so, see below.
3: Do not get defensive and start making excuses.
Instead you might say what you’ve learned and what you will do differently from now on.
4: Don’t take it personally
Remember that they’re criticizing your work, not you as a person. Never take negative feedback about your work as a criticism of you as a person.
5: See criticism as help
Remember that all constructive feedback (including negative feedback) is a sign of interest and a sign that people want to help you do better. It would be far worse for people to notice you doing bad work and not say a word.
6: Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember that everyone makes mistakes and has things to learn. Yes, that includes you. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, but making the same mistakes over and over because you refuse to listen to criticism and learn is just stupid.
7: Say thank you
Thank the person for their feedback.
Never put up with attacks in the workplace
However, note that these steps only apply to constructive, well-meant criticism. Unfair and overly negative feedback is also used as a tool by bad managers and workplace bullies to demean and control others.
The wrong kind of criticism can be:
- Overly negative
- Personal attacks
- Unfair criticism for something that is not your fault or outside if your control
- Delivered in an unpleasant way
Do NOT put up with this kind of attack. If you do it will persist.
Feedback can be a gift
All constructive feedback is valuable because it gives you a chance to improve and learn. Positive feedback is easier and more fun (and sadly undervalued in most workplaces) but negative feedback and criticism can be a fantastic thing as long as we do it right.
In fact, many employees I’ve talked to simply wish for more feedback of any kind. They feel like they work in a vacuum where no one ever notices their efforts, good or bad, and this makes it almost impossible to know whether or not they’re doing good work.
We desperately need feedback – both positive and negative. Tell me what I do well AND tell me what I can do better.
Have you ever received negative feedback in a way that helped you out? How did you receive it? What are some BAD ways to receive criticism? Do you have a coworker who handles criticism particularly well or badly? How do they do it? Write a comment below – I’d love to hear your take.
- You manager probably thinks criticism is better than praise. He’s wrong. Here’s why.
- The top 5 ways NOT to praise people at work.
- How Richard Branson praises Virgin employees.