11 Tips for Dealing with Criticism in the Workplace

Accepting criticism from others can be a very difficult thing. Here are some tips for how to make criticism productive because we are bound to make mistakes. The key to our mistakes is to be able to learn from them and find a way to become better in the future.

1. Accept that you are not perfect. If you begin each task thinking that nothing will go wrong, you’re fooling yourself. You will make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them.

2. Double-check your work. After you’ve finished, and before you submit it to your supervisor, be sure you’ve gone over everything carefully. This can help you to avoid silly mistakes and ensure that your boss won’t have to bother you about minor problems.

3. Don’t take it personally. If your co-worker has criticism for you, remind yourself that it doesn’t necessarily mean s/he doesn’t like you, or that you’re not good enough for the job. Your co-worker is simply trying to ensure that you do the best work possible.

4. Listen carefully. If you ignore critical comments, you’re doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Take notes and continually remind yourself how to fix the problem. This step is the most difficult, as it can mean that one must “suck up” one’s pride and admit one’s responsibility in one’s work-related errors.

5. Ask yourself what can you learn from this criticism. If you feel yourself growing defensive or getting angry, repeat the question ‘What can I learn?’

6. Agree with part of the criticism. When faced with criticism, most people focus on the part of the negative feedback that may not be true and ignore the rest. This doesn’t solve any problems, and you don’t learn anything. When you agree with one part of the criticism, you become open to learning. You don’t have to agree with everything; even agreeing with one small aspect of the criticism will create an atmosphere of teamwork. The focus then can become how you’ll work together to solve a problem, which will lessen your feeling of being attacked.

7. Analyze and evaluate what you’ve heard. You need time to process the information, determine if it’s a valid criticism and decide what you’ll do to solve the problem or correct the mistake. If this is a complaint you’ve heard repeatedly, you should think about what you can learn from the situation so it doesn’t happen again.

8. Don’t hold a grudge. Staying angry/upset about criticism can affect your future work. Put the mistakes out of your mind and focus on doing the best job possible on the next task.

9. Clear the air. If you’re upset with how your co-worker criticized you, let him or her know as soon as possible, so there are no lingering bad feelings between the two of you. Explain why it upset you, and suggest changes that could be made to strengthen your relationship.

10. Accept the fact that others may see something that you don’t. Even if you don’t agree with the criticism, others may be seeing something that you are not even aware of. If they say that you are negative or overbearing, and you don’t feel that you are, well; maybe you are and you just don’t see it. Allow for the fact that others may be right, and use that possibility to look within your self.

11. Be happy whatever the criticism and do not let the criticism bring you down. It may be that the co-worker has problems at home and is just venting his anger off you as an outlet. Be glad you have at least helped him or her.

Adapted from a handout, source unknown.

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