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How to Handle Criticism From a Tough Boss

Constructive criticism is like doing planks at the gym: it’s painful, stretches you and created doubt. But, in the end it produces great results and immense strength. Working with a difficult boss, or one you particularly do not communicate well with makes it even more difficult to handle constructive criticism. Sometimes, criticism can be destructive rather than constructive. In the heat of the moment, no matter how well you perform under pressure, it can be hard to decipher between the two. So, the next time this happens try following these steps:

  1. Avoid reacting: The first reaction that comes to mind, hold it.
  2. Remember the benefits: Avoid self-sabotage by remembering why this is an uncomfortable, but necessary part of your professional development.
  3. Listen: Hear your boss out before you get defensive or provide input.
  4. Be grateful: Always say thank you. Showing gratitude always pays off. In the event that their criticism is destructive, being grateful will allow you to practice “killing with kindness.”
  5. Take a step back: Giving yourself time will allow you to effectively assimilate and deconstruct the feedback so that you can get the most benefit from it. Take as much time as you need before you follow-up.

An interesting article from Psychology Today talks about the difference between criticism and accusation. Differentiating between the two allows you to see whether the person’s tone is judgmental or coming from a place of genuine kindness. If there is malicious intent behind their words, their words will be destructive. Usually, there is some truth to criticism, but it may have been communicated in a hurtful, harsh or extreme way. The ability to be mindful of intent behind criticism is very important. Well-placed criticism is not enjoyable, but necessary to reach our full potential and be successful. Keep in mind the following:

  1. Be mindful of your body language: Your co-workers and management team is definitely observing your reactions, verbal and non-verbal.
  2. Less reaction, more action: Be less reactive and channel that energy into a game plan that allows you to react in a way your boss will positively respond to.
  3. Focus on the work: Focus more on the quality of your work than what your boss says to you. Often times, we cannot control an individual’s perception of us but we can control the quality of our work. Producing high quality work can protect you from judgment and negative feedback in the workplace.

In the words of leadership expert John Maxwell, “It is better to be criticized by a wise person than applauded by a fool.” Make sure you only take to heart words that come from the wise.

Priyanka R. Oza is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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