Can you take the heat of criticism at work?

Sad girlBy Jenny Ford

Sooner or later, we’ll all receive negative feedback on our work. Criticism is never easy to hear and it can cause stress and anxiety for many people. But if you can’t seem to handle the heat, it does have the potential to derail your career.
Learning how to handle criticism from co-workers and your boss is an important part of success. No one is perfect and you can improve your work, and yourself, by taking criticism properly.
There are two types of criticism: deconstructive and constructive. The first is the negative type of criticism. It usually comes in the form of a personal attack. For instance, your boss might say, “This report is terrible. I can’t believe how stupid you are! How did you get this wrong?”
This type of criticism can be very hard to handle. Let your boss or co-worker vent for a second. Sometimes people just want to get the frustration out. Don’t get defensive. This is easier said than done, but hold your tongue and don’t interrupt. Once they’ve said what they have to say, you can calmly state your case.
A good way to avoid getting defensive is to ask questions. What mistakes did you make? How can you improve the report? What can you do differently next time? This will turn the criticism from being deconstructive to constructive.
Reflect on what they’ve said and their answers. If their criticism isn’t justified, ignore it. If you come to the realization that there’s room for improvement, apply what you’ve learned to your work.
Constructive criticism
Constructive criticism is the positive type of criticism that’s about making you better. This type of criticism is trying to make you look good, your work better, and to take you to the next level in your job.
For example, your boss might say, “Thanks for the report. I can tell you put a lot of work into it. Might I make a few suggestions? Would you be able to clarify this point and add more detail here? Can you double check these numbers, too? I’m not sure they’re accurate.”
Part of success is learning how to improve and how to incorporate other people’s suggestions. The first step to taking this type of criticism valiantly is listening. Show you’re actively listening by nodding to their suggestions, keeping eye contact and paraphrasing what they’ve said.
Once again, don’t get defensive and keep calm. Wait for them to finish before jumping in. If you don’t think you can keep your cool, then wait for what they’ve said to settle in and set up a follow-up meeting.
Remember to ask questions with this type of criticism, too. Ask how you can avoid the mistake next time, or how to make something better. Always thank them for their help and input.
Let the suggestions sink in before ignoring them. If you’re unsure if the criticism is justified, consult with some colleagues. Have they noticed these mistakes in your work? Was the criticism merited? This isn’t about gossiping, but making sure you’re on the right track. Keep it professional.
Now, make improvements. Apply what you’ve learned and improve your work. Don’t hold grudges either. Chances are the person means well and they aren’t trying to bring you down with their suggestions. This is a learning experience, after all, to make you better.
Dealing with criticism properly is an important part of advancing in your career. Controlling your reaction can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. Nobody’s perfect, so keep your head cool and your attitude positive.

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