We’ve all been there. Your boss shares negative feedback during your performance review that seems to come out of left field. Or a co-worker delivers a withering critique of a presentation that you worked on for months. While criticism at work can be difficult to deal with, it can also be a gift. Without constructive feedback, it’s impossible to boost your performance and get better at your craft. Fortunately, the choice of how to handle negative input is yours. Here are five healthy ways to deal with criticism at work that will help take your career to the next level.
1. Be open
The first step in benefiting from criticism at work is to be open to it. Actively listen to what is being said and take time to absorb the information. Don’t jump to the conclusion that the person delivering the critique is out to get you. Instead, assume that they are honest and have good intentions. Even if the feedback isn’t tactful, that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be hurtful. Restate the feedback to confirm you are both on the same page. This gives you more time to process it and ensure you understood it correctly. Acknowledge the input and thank them for providing it.
2. Consider your body language
Be aware of your body language. Make sure to uncross your arms and make eye contact. Slow your breathing to reduce your stress level and give your emotions a chance to settle down before you respond. Try to keep your body language open, and your shoulders relaxed. Dealing with criticism at work can be challenging, and open body language will make you feel less defensive.
3. Ask clarifying questions
Once you both understand the feedback, ask clarifying questions. Do you agree with the input, or is it a complete surprise to you? Remember that this is a two-way conversation, and it is up to you to take control of the discussion.
Some possible questions could be:
- What is the context?
- Could you walk me through an example?
- What do you suggest I do differently moving forward to address this?
4. Schedule a follow-up
Planning a follow-up conversation will demonstrate to your boss that you listened, and you’re serious about improving your performance. Develop action steps to address the issue strategically and share them in this meeting. This is a great opportunity to develop additional rapport with your manager and make them feel like a partner in the process. It is also an excellent forum in which to offer a rational counterargument if there were elements of the feedback you disagreed with. By stating your case without anger or defensiveness, it will help them understand your point of view.
5. Share the feedback
Find a mentor, colleague, or advisor and share the feedback with them. This approach is a good way to get a different perspective from someone whose opinion you trust. Ask them if they feel that the input is accurate. You can also use this opportunity to confirm that you’re not being too hard on yourself.
It’s healthy to nurture a culture of feedback in the workplace. If you’re especially sensitive to receiving criticism, you may want to determine why. It may just be a matter of adjusting your inner dialogue to combat a lack of self-confidence or perceived inadequacies. You should also consider the source of the comments. Is it someone whose opinion you respect? Are they interested in helping you develop, or merely putting you down? Either way, you’ll want to remain calm, focus on the facts, and move on. Criticism at work can be a blessing in disguise. Use it to help you improve, and it can be your best friend.
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