How to Handle Criticism at Work

If we spend on average 8 hours or more a day at the workplace, this is at least a third of your active working life. If you deal badly with criticism at work, it usually messes up your happiness at work which in turn affects your mental and physical health. It influences your behavior at home and your general happiness as a human being. Is it worth-while? Certainly not!

Criticism (be it narcissistic or constructive) is part of our lives, it will always be there. The issue is not criticism as such, but how you deal with it. People respond to criticism in various ways, influenced by their upbringing and personality type, but there are ways to deal with criticism constructively.

6 Ways to Effectively Handle Criticism

We can learn from the insights of positive psychology to help us with perceived unfair criticism in the following way:

1. Have a reality check.

Is it really about you? Is it really personal? You must realise some people are just very unhappy with life or with themselves and will project that onto you. That doesn’t mean that you are inadequate.

2. Check your attitude about it.

See criticism as feedback, not failure. Be curious rather than jump to the conclusion that it is about you. Sometimes it is more about the other persons’ state of being.

3. Are you or your behaviour being criticized?

There is a big difference between criticizing a behavior or the person. Be aware of your opinion about yourself, your own perception is more important than the other party.

4. Who is giving the feedback?

People with a low self-esteem might criticize you to feel better about themselves, do not reward their behavior by falling into their trap. A person with a great self-esteem cannot be affected by other people’s opinions, because their opinion of themselves is of far more importance. Become more aware of your own opinion about yourself and less about what others say.

5. Choose your response.

At the end of the day, no matter what anyone says, you can still choose to accept or reject the feedback. Someone’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality. Choose your response wisely. It is helpful to wait a few seconds before responding. Avoid retaliation.

6. Facts or opinions?

There are big differences between facts, opinions and beliefs. If the criticism is about your behavior and it is justified, learn from it and be grateful for any lessons.

Remember it is the meaning you give to the criticism that brings the hurt! Listen attentively to understand and not to respond. Ask clarifying questions to increase understanding. Getting defensive and start making excuses will take you nowhere.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

It all comes down to receiving and giving feedback. Whether you are an entrepreneur, parent, lecturer or high-powered businessperson, you can get the competitive edge with the right time management practices.

Please contact us to get more information about how Change Partners can equip you with the right tools to deal with receiving or giving personal or team feedback.

Willie Snyman

Willie Snyman

Executive Coach

I have more than 40 years of experience in sales, marketing, business and leadership development. I understand the challenges to grow a business with diverse cultures. I focus on personal mastery, conflict resolution, enhancing team performance, leadership, relationship and change management.

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