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Taking it on the chin – dealing with criticism at work
31 March 2015
No one likes being criticised, and it’s our natural reaction to respond emotionally and get defensive when feedback lands on the critical side of the spectrum. You only have to look at reality shows like Masterchef to see that criticism and the ways people deal with it makes good television.
But criticism doesn’t have to be a negative or ‘dirty’ word. Have you ever noticed that the contestants who take the judges’ comments on board on reality TV shows improve the most? Criticism can be a good thing if you know how to take it and deal with it effectively.
Knowing how to deal with criticism is important and can have a big impact on your career progression. Handle it negatively, defensively or at worst ignore it, and it’s unlikely you’ll learn and develop. Invite, accept and act on criticism, and you’ll open yourself up to more experiences, knowledge and opportunities.
So how do we diffuse the personal sting that comes with criticism and help turn it into a positive? Here are some suggestions:
Listen to what the person critiquing you is sayingIt will be your natural instinct to get defensive and begin forming counter-arguments in your head, but try focusing on exactly what they are asking you to do. If you immediately get defensive, you can miss the message. To benefit from criticism, you need to really consider what it is that’s being said – instead of automatically dismissing it.
Discuss the criticism you receiveAccording to Abraham Lincoln, ‘he has a right to criticise, who has a heart to help’; often those critiquing your work or giving you feedback will be in a position to offer advice and guidance on how to improve or rectify a problem. Asking for this guidance is an important step in benefiting from criticism in the workplace.
Ask for feedbackBy regularly asking for feedback, you can get constant assistance and direction as opposed to one dose (or a torrent of criticism!) at your 6 month or yearly review. It’s also a great way to let your superiors know you want to learn, improve and grow with your business.
He has a right to criticise, who has a heart to help, Abraham Lincoln
Be appreciative when you receive itSay thank-you for criticism! It might sound like an odd suggestion, but saying ‘Thanks for pointing that out, I’ll work on it’ is a much more constructive and beneficial way of dealing with criticism than immediately trying defend yourself or justify your actions.
Don’t take it personally!If all those contestants can shoulder the criticism of the judges in front of a nation on Masterchef, then you can too. It’s natural for a sense of shame or guilt to creep up when we’re criticised, but try and separate your emotions and think rationally about how you can take that criticism on board. Always remember, there are advantages to receiving criticism!
Of course, not all feedback is constructive and how you handle criticism can be situational. But as a basic rule, don’t shy away from criticism and try and be receptive to suggestions and new ideas – for your own benefit.
It’s entertaining watching performers and celebrities getting critiqued on reality TV shows – but could we handle the criticism ourselves?
You'll face criticism throughout your career. How you handle it makes all the difference.
- When faced with criticism, its important to:
- Listen to what is being said
- Discuss the criticism
- Regularly ask for feedback
- Be appreciative of feedback, even when critical
Don't take it personally!