The Art of Accepting Criticism in the Workplace


Let’s be honest. Nobody actually enjoys having their weaknesses pointed out. Whether it’s provided by your boss during your evaluation or by your colleague during a group project, the delivery always stings and can cause you to question your abilities. This doesn’t have to be the case. Here are a few tips around the art of accepting criticism in a productive manner in the workplace.

Tip #1: Ask Questions
You may be asking: why would I want to make the sting of criticism worse by asking questions? Because it’s important to fully understand the context around the feedback you receive to avoid any chance of misinterpretation. For example, let’s say your boss mentions that you haven’t been paying attention during some meetings recently. You’re confused because you know you’re always engaged, so you ask her to clarify. Your boss points out a few examples, which causes you to realize that those were meetings where you were asked to take notes. Your boss wasn’t aware, so it seemed like you were just typing on your computer and not participating in the conversation. This can now be easily cleared up.

It’s also important to realize that delivering criticism can be just as difficult and uncomfortable as receiving it. By asking genuine questions, you can make the conversation easier for both sides and show your manager or colleague that you’re eager to improve.

Tip #2: View it as an Opportunity
This is tough to do, but viewing criticisms as opportunities to improve yourself is a healthy mindset. After an evaluation, offer to set up checkpoints with your manager to gauge your progress. This shows initiative and gives you the opportunity to work hard in a specified area and see definite improvement. It’s a great way to differentiate yourself from others who ignore the criticism they’re offered, and it’s also a chance to work on parts of yourself that will someday contribute to being a better leader, colleague and overall person.

Tip #3: Be Selective
For the most part, constructive criticism is subjective, and it’s important to remind yourself of this. Other people’s opinions are not necessarily an accurate reflection of your personality so be sure to take all feedback with a grain of salt. Meaning, by practicing self awareness, learn to recognize which criticisms are valuable, and which might just be slight differences in work style or personality. For example, look for patterns in the feedback you receive from colleagues. Have you heard more than once that you need to be better about deadlines? Then perhaps that’s an area to focus on. However, if someone criticizes a single project that you don’t feel accurately reflects a weakness, don’t sweat it. While you should always be open to hearing the feedback, you should also be mindful and selective of what you choose to focus on.

Being able to gracefully accept and incorporate constructive criticism is essential to growing in the workplace. While it may not ever feel pleasant, just know that it’s an inevitable part of working life that is ultimately help you better yourself as both a person and a professional.

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