Receiving criticism at work is one of the hardest things for professionals. As a professional, you strive to do an excellent job at any task. You work hard to be thorough, accurate, and timely when performing your job duties, and you take pride in your work product. All of these qualities is the primary reason why receiving and accepting criticism is so difficult. You are a perfectionist, so it stings pretty bad when someone tells you that you're...not perfect. Believe me, I get it. I've been there, done that, and starred in the made-for-T.V. movie! But over the course of my career, I have actively worked to be a gracious receptor of direct feedback and constructive criticism...even when I do not agree. It's a skill that I believe every professional should work at mastering. Now, I always acknowledge that I am a work in progress, but I have taken the liberty to share with you 5 Steps to Receiving Criticism at Work Like a Champ. Let me know what you think!
Step 1. Listen Carefully - I know this is easier said than done, but listening carefully to criticism is the most important step. You have to be an active listener so that you are completely clear on that in which you are being criticized. One thing I tend to do is try to formulate my rebuttal while I'm listening, which would result in me missing something being said. Don't do this! Just sit back and listen attentively...don't miss anything while you're disagreeing in your head. My suggestion is that you take notes during the critique (or shortly thereafter), and ask questions where appropriate if you need clarity on a particular point. Remember, this question-asking opportunity is not the time to argue; your job here is to listen!
Step 2. Don't Be Defensive...Be Receptive - Once you have listened to and received criticism, you may feel inclined to issue an immediate rebuttal. Not a great idea! Why? It is perfectly natural to feel dejected, upset, misunderstood, picked on, or even angry immediately after receiving a critique. If you are a "react first, think later" type of person, you may react yourself right out of job by addressing a critique while in a not-so-great emotional place. My suggestion is that you suppress the urge to go on the defense. Instead, receive the criticism (even if you disagree), thank the critic(s), and request and opportunity to discuss further if necessary. For those of you wondering how to do this, here's how! In your non-defensive, non-angry voice, hit your critic with this:
"Thank you for taking the time to provide me with this feedback. I definitely have some things that I need to think about and work on. May I schedule a meeting with you later this week to discuss further?"
That's it! Reserving your thoughts for a later conversation gives you a chance to digest the critique and apply suggestions as appropriate. It also gives you the opportunity to respond in a non-emotional way. Further, thanking your critic(s) demonstrates that you are open to feedback, and that you are approachable.
Step 3. Take Time To Digest - Here's where taking notes comes in handy. After your critique, take your time to digest what you were just told. Go over each point and objectively decide whether they have merit. Is there a reason why team members think that you are not responsive? Is there a reason why you had a few grammatical errors in your report...were you rushing when you were proofreading? Were you truly a team player? This is the time to look back at your behavior to ascertain your contribution to a project, or a team, or an event. Again, your job here is to decide whether the criticisms have merit. It is extremely important to be honest with yourself here...none of that "I did everything right" stuff! This is a time for self-reflection and self-improvement. Where can you make adjustments in your behavior? Where can you make changes to your management style? What personality changes can you make so that you are not perceived in a certain way.
Now, after doing some soul searching, there still may be some points on which you completely disagree. How do you handle these? Well, you will have a chance to address some of these in the follow-up meeting you scheduled with your critic! Be sure to think about these items and come up with specific discussion points for your follow up. (See Step 5)
Step 4. Apply - Now that you have had a chance to digest your criticisms, it's time to make some changes. Start with the thing that you have complete control of...yourself! Apply those behavioral changes that you identified in Step 3. Actively work on answering emails quicker. Make an effort to be more responsive. Identify ways to better work with your team. In sum, take charge of your actions!
Step 5. Follow Up - During your follow-up meeting with your critic(s), be sure to once again thank him/her for providing you with direct feedback. Then, inform him/her that you have put certain things in place to address some of the concerns discussed in the initial meeting. Your critic will be happy to know that you have taken his/her criticism seriously, and are actively working to better yourself. As for those items on which you disagree, here is the time to have a dialogue with your critic(s). Notice that I used the word "dialogue" and not "argument." This is a time for you to obtain some additional understanding on the specific criticism, and also to give your thoughts on the matter. Maybe the critic(s) did not have all of the information necessary to make a judgment...you may use this time to provide additional insight. Perhaps you were initially unclear on what was expected of you while performing a certain task...this is the time to discuss expectations on both sides. The purpose of this follow up meeting is to ensure that you have all of the tools necessary to be a better professional. You've already dealt with the things that are directly reflective of your behavior. The follow up meeting is intended to give you clarity on the remaining items...in a non-emotional way!
For those items in which you absolutely do not agree and which you and your critic have not resolved, you may have to just agree to disagree and move on. Receive the information, put it in your back pocket, and keep it in mind when performing your next task or assignment.
So...that's my spiel! Any thoughts? How do you receive criticism at work?