Accepting Professional Criticism with Class
While the words “criticism” and “critique” often stir negative and defensive emotions (even when you throw the word “constructive” in front of them), receiving criticism appropriately is crucial to gaining insight into how you can succeed in your position. Unfortunately, knowing this doesn’t make listening to criticism any easier. From your boss giving you a formal review, to a coworker making a casual observation, use the following steps to accept criticism in the workplace with class and turn a potentially negative conversation into a learning opportunity.
- Be open to criticism: Instead of shying away from criticism or putting up your guard as soon as you feel your work is being scrutinized, be the type of employee and coworker that periodically asks for feedback and invites constructive criticism. By doing this, you can create a relationship with your employer and coworkers where criticism is welcomed by acknowledging that there are areas in your career that you can improve upon.
- Listen: It can be tempting to tune out criticism, or jump in and defend your work before hearing the other person out, but what you should really be doing is actively listening so that you can make meaningful changes that will have a positive impact on your career. Employees who don’t listen to criticism are often doomed to repeat their mistakes, and can get the reputation as reluctant to accept advice.
- Clarify: After you have listened to your employer or coworker completely (and free of interruptions), take a moment to clarify their feedback. This can be done by restating what they said and asking clarifying questions. This lets them know that you heard what they said and that you value their insight. They will appreciate the effort that you are making to fully understand what they are saying; after all, giving feedback can be just as difficult as receiving feedback.
- Express gratitude: This may feel extremely difficult, especially if you don’t agree with the criticism that you received, but it is important to thank them for taking an interest in your success. Even though their critique may bruise your ego, consider that the reason they took the time to give you feedback is because they believe that you are capable of making improvements in your work.
- Process: After listening, clarifying and thanking them for their input, take some time to process the conversation. As you process, reflect on the specific areas of your work that were discussed and how their feedback can be used to succeed in your position. This time should not be spent focusing on the negative and venting to a coworker about what a horrible experience you just had; instead, it should be used as a time to reflect on the opportunity for growth that the criticism has inspired.
- Move on: Once you have processed the criticism and have decided how you are going to proceed, it is time to move forward. Letting criticism eat away at your confidence will only harm your ability to perform your job, so make sure that you take the feedback and move forward.
The next time you are approached by your employer or coworker with criticism about your work, resist the urge to become defensive and shut down communication. Instead, follow the steps above and accept their feedback with the knowledge that their perspective may help you to succeed in your career.