Criticism is a fact of life and a powerful training tool when we understand how to put it to use. We will almost certainly receive criticism (constructive or otherwise) from a supervisor giving feedback and possibly from a client at some point in our professional career. It is important to prepare yourself for all types of criticism in the workplace. With deep breaths and an open mind, you'll be armed with the knowledge to handle the situation properly.
How to Accept Office Criticism With Grace
1. Be Mindful of Your Body Language
When offered constructive criticism, pay special attention to your body language. Assume a "neutral" posture; keep your arms on the table, in your lap, or a combination of both. Maintain eye contact, and be aware of your shifting weight. Avoid crossing your arms, tightening your fists, pursing your lips, or rolling your eyes.
2. Arrive Prepared
Reflect back and take an objective look at your past and current performance. Have you made mistakes that have affected the company's bottom line? Do you have a habit of arriving late or missing deadlines? If so, have an action plan that you have taken (or will take immediately) to remedy your behavior. Bring along a list of positive contributions you've made to move the department forward. And, whatever you do, bring a pen and paper to the meeting.
3. Remain Calm and Do Not Respond With Angry Excuses
Often our first instinct is to react defensively. Instead, pause for a moment to allow yourself time to process the critique and then respond in a calm and polished manner. If you fly off the handle when a supervisor gives you a critique, it sends a message that you are not prepared to handle pressure. However, if you accept difficult feedback with a calm and thoughtful demeanor, it shows that you can separate emotion from business--an essential skill for success in the workplace. If you need more time to respond, it is fine to calmly say, "I appreciate you bringing this to my attention and will follow up with you on how I plan to overcome this challenge." If you feel the feedback is unduly harsh or unfair, ask for some time to process the information while you formulate your next step.
4. Rethink the Word "Criticism"
Stay open to hearing a message that may be of value and use it as an opportunity to improve. By taking the "feedback" as a professional courtesy, you instantly receive the opportunity to expand your skills, behavior, and overall professional image. Asking for your employer's advice on how you can improve shows your commitment to both the company and your responsibilities. Even if you disagree with the critique, be open minded to a different way of thinking. You will gain insight into what others see, which may be very different from your own perspective.
5. Show Gratitude
Delivering constructive criticism can be a challenge. Demonstrate your grace by thanking your boss or colleague for his or her honesty and professionalism when offering feedback. Ask for clarification if you have any questions. Consider thanking the person for his or her input.
How to Deliver Professional Criticism
Evaluating an employee's performance is an inevitable part of a managerial position, especially when you are the supervisor or team leader. When issues arise, it is important to know how to effectively communicate your concerns in a thoughtful and professional manner. Knowing how to frame this conversation can ensure a receptive employee as well as a positive outcome.
1. Talk Privately
Addressing an issue with an employee is a delicate matter. Do not involve an audience by voicing your concerns in the office break room or other public area. Instead, hold your conversation in a comfortable location, preferably your office, a conference room, or a coffee shop away from the bustle of the workday. This will minimize uncomfortable feelings and allow you to speak candidly.
2. Insert the Negative Between Two Positives
Begin the conversation by mentioning what the employee has done correctly. For instance, start by saying, "Michael, thank you for volunteering to create the design briefs for our monthly staff meeting." Move into, "I have some suggestions that I feel will improve the end result. In the future, can you be sure to include our design mockups for each project?" Close by emphasizing the employee's additional strengths. "Our meeting went a lot smoother thanks to those labeled tabs." Using genuine compliments and giving constructive feedback will make the person more receptive.
3. Highlight the Issue, Not the Person
When providing criticism, be sure to focus on the particular circumstance or actions that prompted the discussion. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements to keep the issue at the forefront of the conversation, not the person's character. Rather than saying, "You are never prepared," try saying, "I've noticed you've seemed overwhelmed with new clients these past few months. With all this added work, I am sure you could use some assistance."
4. Give Specific Details
It is not enough to tell someone they are doing something wrong. You have to provide them with a clear explanation of what you want them to change. Telling someone "to be friendlier" lacks context and does not give the person a foundation to improve. On the other hand, saying, "We strive to provide the best experience for our customers and that starts with answering the telephone with a cheerful voice," paints a clear picture of what is to follow.
5. Provide Suggestions on How to Improve
Rather than leaving your employees to figure it out, include a few recommendations to move them in the right direction. Be sure to mention how each suggestion will facilitate their development. Offer support through workshops, article links, videos, and other support materials.
6. Be Available
Keep the lines of communication open long after the initial discussion. Check in periodically to see how the person is doing and to answer any questions they might have. Being supportive of your employee or co-worker's development is crucial to maintaining a positive workplace environment.
7. Follow Up With Additional Feedback
Sometimes change takes time, but that doesn't mean you can't give kudos as employees develop their skills. Whether you schedule regular meetings or just pull them aside, make sure to recognize their progress and thank them for their initiative. This positive gesture will go a long way in encouraging them to move forward.
Before walking into your next performance review, be sure to have a well thought out strategy in place for handling the criticism you may receive or the criticism you may need to deliver to those you interact with at the office.