A Complete Guide on How to Handle Criticism at Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 11 October 2022

Published 2 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Constructive criticism is intelligent and well-reasoned critique that aids in your work. Taking criticism as an employee can be difficult, since it might be unsettling at first. Understanding how to listen actively, take feedback positively and apply constructive feedback appropriately may help you improve connections and enhance your performance at work. In this article, we go through the steps on how to handle criticism concerning your work, how to navigate your workplace's feedback culture and how to manage overly negative criticism.

Related: How to Give Constructive Criticism (With Examples)

How to handle criticism

In order to deal with criticism, it's crucial to understand the perspective of the person giving that feedback. Constructive criticism is well-reasoned, meaningful feedback that can help you develop in your job. It's not a personal attack, a blame for circumstances beyond your control or a harsh critique with aims to embarrass you, harm you or harm your reputation. Constructive criticism may come from your employer or manager, peers, human resource representatives or other coworkers.

You may receive constructive criticism through a performance assessment, meeting, casual discussion or an email. People may also provide constructive feedback to you over the course of your normal workday if problems emerge. There are several actions you may take to capitalise on constructive feedback from your supervisor or coworkers. If you're sensitive to criticism, try the following strategies to improve your attitude towards hearing feedback. Discussed below are the steps on how to handle criticism in the workplace:

1. Recognise the underlying positive intent

The first step in responding to constructive criticism is to understand its objective. Always presume that those who provide criticism have the best of intentions. They intend for their constructive criticism to help you rather than to humiliate or upset you. It may be helpful to think about criticism as an unpleasant-tasting vitamin supplement–it may cause temporary discomfort, but it aims to be beneficial.

When a coworker or manager provides constructive feedback on your job, it means that they're worrying about your professional progress and pointing out areas of improvement. You can better accept criticism if you take this perspective when receiving feedback. Consider how their knowledge makes them a reputable source and how you may learn professionally from them.

Related: How to Give 360 Feedback to Your Boss (Steps and Benefits)

2. Get rid of emotional responses, defensiveness and excuses

It's natural to have an emotional reaction while hearing criticism. It's natural to want to justify your decisions and explain your behaviour. Set aside those inclinations when getting professional criticism. Constructive criticism aims to help you improve your future work performance. Therefore, it may not be necessary to explain your previous decisions or actions. Once you've determined that the critique is well-intentioned, you're ready to listen and implement it.

When someone critiques your work, remember the lesson, even if it may not feel good initially. You might become more grateful for constructive criticism if you regard it as help. Aside from learning from the comments you get, strive to work on the areas you can improve with the constructive criticism.

Related: How to Give Feedback Professionally at Work

3. Actively listen

You're ready to listen to and accept criticism if you assume good purpose and recognise that the criticism can help you develop both personally and in your career. Pay attention to what the other person says and how it pertains to the work you do. Active listening is repeating back what you hear for confirmation. This allows you to receive and understand the criticism cognitively.

4. Keep an objective perspective and respect negative comment

Another technique to handle criticism professionally is to understand that it's not personal. People who provide it aren't dismissing your worth as a person. Instead of viewing negative and positive comments as diametrically opposed, consider them to be equal. Negative feedback also offers an opportunity to progress. In addition, remember that receiving any form of feedback is usually preferable to receiving no input at all.

5. Appreciate the criticism as a part of your success journey

It's critical that you adopt a positive attitude about hearing comments. For instance, if you regard criticism as unnecessary, you're more inclined to dismiss it. Choose to view criticism as an offer of assistance and a valuable learning opportunity. Be thankful that you have the support to execute your work properly and the incentive to develop. When you look at constructive criticism as a source of help, such feedback sessions may even turn out to be discussions you look forward to.

6. Be kind to yourself

Even though you understand that constructive criticism isn't personal, you may still be unduly critical of yourself. Remember that no one is flawless. There's always more to learn, no matter how much you already know. Congratulate yourself on your accomplishments, then project your future successes based on what you've learned from the comments. If you find yourself becoming unduly critical of yourself after hearing comments, remember to be empathic and envision yourself in the position of your critic. This may assist you in extending to yourself the same loving attitude that you would gladly provide to someone else.

7. Seek clarification on topics you may not understand or agree with at first

If there's anything in the critique that you're unsure about, get clarification as quickly as possible. You can offer to clarify questions when you receive comments, or you can follow up later after you've given the critique some thought. Make sure that you understand the expectations so that any remedial action you take is appropriate.

8. Arrange a follow-up appointment to assess your progress

Planning a time to check in and analyse your progress is an important aspect of making the most of the feedback you get. Make a calendar reminder to arrange time together. Prepare examples of how you've applied the feedback. For instance, if your supervisor encouraged you to raise your department's social media posting frequency from two to four times weekly, bring proof of the increased posting schedule with you when you meet to discuss.

9. Extend your gratitude to the person who submitted feedback

Thank the individual who provided the critique, recognising the thought and time they invested in it. Let them know how much you appreciate their offer of assistance and guidance. It also lets them know how much you appreciate your working relationship with them. It also conveys to your coworkers that you have a growth mindset because you're willing to accept feedback and improve.

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Why it's important to handle criticism

Constructive criticism aims to assist someone in improving some element of their life, whether it's personal or professional. It's very important to be able to demonstrate the ability to handle criticism, as it shows to your employers and manager that you're open to feedback and willing to learn from it. On top of that, criticism is also vital at work as it shows that your employer really cares about you, and they're eager to see you doing well in your role.

Whether you've received good or bad criticism, make sure you take this criticism positively. Carefully listen to all of the feedback first before giving your response. Having this ability to be positive and handle criticism is going to help you excel in your career.

Related: How To Deal With a Difficult Boss

Navigating the feedback culture in your workplace

If your workplace prioritises feedback, such a culture may motivate and incentivise everyone to provide feedback. It's typically adopted by organisations that aim to create a pleasant work environment and foster healthy connections. By creating a feedback culture, these organisations also enhance employee engagement and lower attrition rates. There's usually a framework in place for employees to convey their concerns to the management in such settings. If the company you work in encourages criticism, make sure you also practise good communication skills, while giving feedback to someone.

Feedback culture is vital because it gives employees consistent and frequent input on how well they're executing their duties. If this isn't encouraged, employees are unlikely to provide constructive feedback to the company. This might give the impression that everything is fine and that no changes are necessary. Employees who are productive and involved in the firm may choose to leave, since they may not be sure if they're meeting expectations. Constructive criticism is a crucial tool for raising these issues to the relevant personnel. Having a positive feedback culture also allows employees to grow and advance in their careers.

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