Don't get trumped: here's how to take criticism like a champ

It can be jarring when your work is criticised but, before you rush to Twitter to vent your wounded spleen, take a moment to appreciate criticism for the gift it can be.

Here’s the rundown on how respond with cool professionalism:

  • Don’t react personally. Criticism isn’t a reflection of you as a person – it’s an examination of your work. Responding personally or feeling defensive won’t solve the other person’s issue, it will only increase the problem and potentially make it larger than it needed to be. Listen calmly, not fearfully, to the person’s issues – it will help steady you in a stressful conversation and let you focus on the issue at hand.

    While it can be an uncomfortable conversation, take comfort in this: you’ve been given a chance to improve. Someone taking the time to give constructive criticism is giving you a chance to get better in your job.
  • Show you can listen. Acknowledge their criticism by restating their concern to show you’re listening and want to understand.

    Asking for specific examples that illustrate their criticism can help you identity the root cause of the feedback – for example, being flustered in meetings might spring from not preparing for meetings effectively, an error-filled report might need careful proofreading in the future, and so on.

    Perhaps their criticism actually points to one area of a larger problem – asking questions about the issue will help you work out the full extent of their problem and locate potential solutions for the both of you.
  • What if the criticism is personal? The best criticism attacks the problem and not the person. If you feel the criticism is personal ask them to rephrase their issues in a work performance context – what tasks can be improved, is there a process to refine?

    You can shift the conversation to be more constructive but, if the person persists in personal criticism, you’re well within your rights to report the issue to HR and request mediation so you can reach a positive conclusion.
  • Validate with others. It isn’t a sign of weakness or insecurity to ask colleagues about the criticism you’ve received. Often your workmates can be the best people to discuss it with, can help validate it with their own experiences or help you discover a solution.
  • Solutions. Come to a mutual solution to avoid the criticism in future. Not only will this help you improve your work performance, but it also shows you’re taking the criticism seriously. By devising a solution, you can also break it down into a process with agreed timelines for improvement, criteria (what things to get right) and schedule a follow up meeting to see if the person feels their original criticism is no longer an issue.

It’s never easy to hear criticism, but imagine the alternative – ignorance isn't the bliss it’s cracked up to be. 

Someone taking the time to give constructive criticism is giving you a chance to get better in your job.