Saturday 21 September 2019

Deal with constructive criticism like a pro in 4 easy steps

Aoife Geary - Independent Jobs

Constructive criticism is part and parcel of working life. It helps us identify our weaknesses, solidify our strengths and develop within our career. That said, getting negative feedback can be a difficult experience. Even if your manager is delivering the critique in a productive and sensitive way it can be tough to take.

Here’s how to handle constructive criticism in the workplace:


Our first instinct when we’re being criticised is usually to go on the defensive, clam up or even shut down altogether. However, it’s important to think of the experience as an opportunity, not an attack. Before you start looking for a new job try to listen to what’s been said. Don’t jump to any conclusions about your overall performance. The purpose of feedback is to help you grow and improve, not to insult you. So endeavour to accept the feedback graciously, your colleagues and boss will respect you for it.

Take some notes

If you weren’t expecting bad press, it can be hard to process initially. That’s why it’s a good idea to take notes which you can revisit later from a new (and probably calmer) perspective. You don’t need to record everything that’s been said but before leaving the meeting summarise what’s been said and take note of it. This will avoid any potential misunderstanding down the line.

Ask for clarity

While it’s important to listen, it shouldn’t be a one-way street. If a colleague or manager is making observations about your work feel free to ask for further explanation where appropriate. After all, to take on board their recommendations, it’s crucial that you fully understand them. Having an open and honest discussion is the healthiest way to handle any criticism. Admit any shortcomings but call out any criticism you feel is unjustified too. Language and tone are important here, it’s so easy to appear defensive. To avoid this use phrases like:

“Just to clarify, you feel that…?”

“Can I just confirm that you think to improve on X we should do Y?”

“To help me understand, could you offer an example?”

Show gratitude

If you’ve just been hit with some tough love, showing your gratitude might feel like the last thing you want to do but being able to recognise the good intention behind the criticism is an admirable trait. Remember, the whole point of feedback is to help you improve and excel in your role. Take on board everything that’s been said and then put it into practice. Learn from the experience.

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