Tuesday, February 1, 2011

5 Ways to Cope With Criticism at Work

Anyone who says they like criticism is lying.

While we may say we appreciate feedback because it helps us grow, develops our skills (blah, blah, blah) the truth is that it stings when someone tells us they believe we're doing something wrong, or not doing a good job or that our new tie looks like something Yogi Bear would wear.

While you may harbor secret thoughts of punching your co-worker in the nose when he criticizes your report or would like to see your boss covered with a very itchy fungus when he nitpicks your efforts, the truth is that we've got to learn to take criticism like a professional if we want to see our career grow.

If you can't take criticism -- and get a reputation as a whiny cry-baby whenever someone says something you don't like -- then you're not going to get very far.

So, here are some ways to cope when you get stung:

1. Criticism is a fact of life. Everyone gets criticized, no matter how popular they may be, or how successful. You're in some very good company when someone criticizes you or your talents. Best-selling author John Grisham had his first book, "The Firm" turned down by more than two-dozen publishers. That book ended up being on The New York Times bestseller list for nearly a year.

2. Don't make yourself an easy mark. Don't like criticism? Then don't do dumb stuff like showing up late every day for work, consistently turning in sloppy work or spending half the day chatting with friends via Facebook. Once you start the cycle of criticism, it's going to be hard for anyone to see you as anything but a screw-up who deserves the insults.

3. Be honest with yourself. If you say, "Just let me know if there's anything else I can do," or "If this isn't what you want, let me know," then there is a chance you might get feedback that isn't always rosy. You can't get huffy when you get criticism if you've asked for it.

4. Avoid lashing out. I grew up with two sisters, and believe me, if you threw a punch you better be ready for one in return. Retaliation was the name of the game, whether it was ripping the head off my sister's favorite Barbie doll or tattling to my mom. But in the workplace, you can't go running to the boss or colleagues when you don't like criticism you've received. You can't fire back an e-mail to your critic, laced with phrases like "you moron" and "you're dead to me." In fact, when you're the most upset, don't say anything. Excuse yourself to go to the restroom or outside, anything to cool off so that you don't overreact.

5. Keep your perspective. So, you're told your report wasn't done very well. Your writing was trite and the conclusion was wrong. Trust me, the world will not stop spinning because you write poorly. When you go home, the dog will still love you, your family will still think you're funny and spring still will arrive.

What are some others ways to cope with criticism?


Unmana said...

Love this post, and totally agree with you on all the points. I'm pretty sensitive to criticism myself, and at the least I've learned to take it professionally (#4) and do my fuming later when I'm alone.

I love #2, and I must say I live by it at work! I need to do better with #5 though.

Anita said...

One of the things I thought about when writing this post was that I need to be more aware of how someone else may be feeling when I offer my opinion -- or criticism. I think that's equally important -- perhaps a post for another day! Thanks for your comments.

Rick Saia said...

Nice post Anita! Everyone needs to realize that criticism is part of just about any job and you need to develop a thick skin if you don't have it already.

The other thing that comes to mind is the Golden Rule: If you can't take criticism yourself, don't dish it out.

Derek Dostal said...

I find glaring at people and being very unapproachable takes care of all criticism.

Very good words Anita and ones we all have to think about. It seems that self examination and awareness is at the root of all improvement. Once we are aware then we can accept words of others easier.

I am all for defending what you believe and not folding up under others judgement but to be "graceful under fire" then think later that one critics view can be two and examine for improvement.

But...I must say...I am a bit afraid of your sisters' ire...

Anita said...

I like your reference to the Golden Rule...seems like sometimes those with the most complaints are often guilty of the same things and unwilling to admit it.

Anita said...

Thanks for your comments, and I must say you're a smart man to be afraid of my sister. Although, the time I poured salt in her bed was a stroke of genius....

Anonymous said...

I vent my rage by constructively trashing my cubicle.
I want to trash my cubicle, but instead I channel that energy to declutter my cubicle and cabinets. I tend to be a pack rat and normally its hard to throw out stuff. Today, I threw away old stuff, notebooks, electronic prototypes, sales brochures with gusto. Then I took the large trash can to the recycling area in the loading docks and forcefully flung each piece into the large bin. I felt much better after hearing things bang around and stuff breaking inside the bin.

Anita said...

I like that idea! Constructive and productive!