How To Handle Constructive Criticism At Work

By June 6, 2017For Talent

Getting negative feedback from your boss or colleagues can be an uncomfortable experience. Nobody likes a bad review! That said, learning how to accept criticism at work is a crucial part of our career development. Here’s how to do it like a pro:


Our first instinct when we’re being criticised is usually to go on the defensive, clam up or even shut down altogether. However it’s important to think of the experience as an opportunity, not an attack. Instead of reacting from emotion, listen and really listen to what is being said. Try not to jump to any conclusions about your overall performance. The purpose of feedback is to help you grow and improve, not to insult you. So endeavour to accept the feedback graciously, you’re colleagues and boss will respect you for it.

Take notes

If you weren’t expecting bad press, it can be hard to process initially. That’s why it’s a good idea to take notes which you can revisit later from a new (and probably calmer) perspective. Before you leave the meeting, summarise what’s been discussed to make sure you’re not misunderstanding any of the points made.

Ask questions

While it’s important to listen, it shouldn’t be a one-way street. If a colleague is making observations about your work feel free to ask for further explanation where appropriate.  After all, to take on board their recommendations, it’s crucial that you fully understand them. Having an open and honest discussion is the healthiest way to handle any criticism. Admit any shortcomings but call out any criticism you feel is unjustified too. Just watch your tone and language, you don’t want to appear defensive. Some useful phrases here would be

“Just to clarify, you feel that…?”

“Can I just confirm that you think to improve on X we should do Y?”

“To help me understand, could you offer an example?”

Show gratitude

If you’ve just been hit with some tough love, showing your gratitude might feel like the last thing you want to do but being able to recognise the good intention behind the criticism is an admirable trait. Remember, the whole point of feedback is to help you improve and excel in your role. Take on board everything that’s been said and then put it into practice. Learn from the experience.

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Author Aoife Geary

Aoife Geary is the Content Editor at Jobbio specialising in the areas of Workplace Culture, Diversity, Startups and Digital Trends. She's partial to a burrito, a bad pun and living way beyond her means.

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