Constructive, Not Destructive: Tips for Handling Criticism in the Workplace

Receiving and delivering criticism can be a tense process if not handled properly by both the supervisor and the employee. However, teams that take a mature, team-oriented approach to criticism are much more likely to deliver excellent results in terms of individual growth and the success of the company. How teams deal with delivering and handling criticism makes the difference in whether the process becomes constructive or destructive.

To the manager

Here are a few suggestions for managers when delivering feedback to their employees:

  • Focus on behavior rather than personality. It’s easier for people to respond to feedback positively when it related to “what they do” rather than “who they are.”
  • Avoid taking ownership of an employee’s emotional response. No matter how skilled managers are at delivering feedback, some employees will almost always have a negative reaction.
  • Practice what you preach. If you want your team to handle criticism properly, you must set a good example when receiving criticism of the company or your management style.

For more information about how managers can help employees use feedback to improve performance, watch this video.

To the employee

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with feedback from a manager or supervisor:

  • Keep your temper in check. No one responds well to feedback when they are angry or upset. Do not automatically retreat to the negative side of the conversation. Instead, use it as an opportunity to improve your future performance.
  • Objectively listen to the criticism and take active steps to improve your performance. Identify the specific areas that your manager wants to address and set specific goals to achieve.
  • Check in with your boss after a period of time to make sure the steps you have taken are making a difference.

No one likes to be criticized, and even though you may have a boss who is quick to deliver negative feedback, delivering criticism is not fun either. By taking a level-headed, team approach to using feedback to improve performance, your company and your team will be more empowered to meet its full potential.

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5 comments
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Stephanie Trdenic
Stephanie Trdenic

Sylvia, I love your tips on conflict in the workplace. I am going through some of these things right now -- it's a temporary situation, at least -- but I feel I may have to approach this woman to find out what the problem is in us not getting along. She is a fellow actress, so it is not the same as manager/employee, but I have still gotten positive and practical tips from your blog. Thank you!

amilenko
amilenko

These are all excellent tips.... However, there are situations where a manager and an employee have had tense and difficult situations with one another (where the manager has been reprimanded for their behaviour). In this instance, how can the manager offer constructive criticism to the employee in the future when the employees mindset is predisposed to viewing such interactions as an attack?

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launchingliveswebsite

The manager in this case could say something like this: "I want to share a few observations with you because I am invested in your growth and development. I truly want you to be successful here. It is my job to help you enhance and expand your skills. How would you prefer that I share these observations?" That is one example of how such a delicate situation could be handled.