How to Handle Criticism at Work?

My grouse with criticism is a recent phenomenon. Maybe I have become a little set in my ways and consider any feedback or input as a slight.

What readers might have noticed is that the above paragraph makes it clear that I am set in my ways and tone-deaf to improvements, which at any stage in life is not a good trait.

When I was a rookie reporter and sub, I was open to any inputs (I preferred to call it that ) from my seniors. A diploma in journalism hones your writing skills, but nothing prepares you for the nitty-gritty of the actual newsroom.

Which is the case with any profession. A degree or a certificate may give you an insight into how things are supposed to work, but the actual test of your skills comes in only in practice, and perfection comes with some more learning on the way.

Learn how to handle criticism at work

How to handle criticism at work

 So how do we handle criticism at work? The immediate answer is, with grace. So how to acquire that grace to have an open mind, imbibe and act on it?

Avoid reacting

The first step is not to react negatively. If someone is giving you feedback on the task done, then lend an ear and listen. There is no need to get defensive or find excuses.

Listen and Acknowledge

After avoiding your first reaction to deflect, try to understand what is being said to you. Allow the person to share their thoughts without interruption. Just focus on what is being said without assigning any motives or getting any personalities involved.

After giving your full attention to the feedback, say thank you for the feedback. This is a way of acknowledging the other person’s input. It does not necessarily mean that you agree with their assessment of the situation.

Deconstruct the feedback

Take the opportunity to clarify some issues and deconstruct the feedback. Do not engage in confrontation, but ask what led them to arrive at the conclusion they did.

Ask why s/he thinks you did not do the best job there is. Or why they think that you should not have spoken up a the meeting? Or try to establish if the person has noticed this as a pattern or was it a one-off mistake?

And finally ask for a solution for a task-related criticism, if the other person is ready to give one. Or ask how you could have handled a particular situation better if it is a behavior issue.

If you find the issue needs further probing, then ask for a follow-up interview. Say that you need to clear some things and need to get on the same page and want to find out the next step in the issue.

Move On

Constructive criticism is a good way to improve and build upon your weaknesses.  Remember, it is not easy to criticize others in a work situation and to give feedback. Take it as a positive input and move on.

But there are times when office colleagues criticize to settle scores and create trouble.

A good way to handle this is to calmly respond. Repeat the criticism in your own words and ask if this what they meant.

In most situations, a clam confrontation leads to the person pulling back and the issue can be resolved immediately or you can request a meeting later to clarify the issue.

If a higher-up has some criticism, the best tactic is to repeat the criticism and ask if this is what they meant. Then try to explain your role or stance.

If your boss is still not convinced, then take inputs to improve the situation and assure of better results next time.

Most importantly, know that you gave your best to the task and in handling the criticism of it (if any) by presenting your side. Then, move on.


Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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