No matter your job title, level, or industry, you could be subject to workplace criticism. In fact, one in five workers actually experiences bullying in the workplace. While it’s human nature to get defensive when hearing criticism, in many cases, you can actually benefit from it.
Here are tips on how to receive and react to workplace criticism constructively, as well as the proper course of action if criticism becomes harassment.
How to Receive It
+ Understand the Critic
Developing context is always important in any situation. Understand the source of the criticism. What level of interaction do you have with this person on a daily basis? What prompted the feedback? What is their motivation for reaching out to you? How emotional are they? What is their communication style?
Use the silence between thoughts and conversation to channel your thoughts. Listen and reflect before you speak so you do not make any knee-jerk reactions like retaliation.
+ Assume the Best Intentions
It’s easy to fall into a cycle of being a “Negative Nancy” – especially in the workplace. A positive outlook makes a difference when receiving criticism. Assume that the person giving criticism intends to do so from a place of love and respect – even if it is not the case. This strategy helps you keep your cool and stick to the facts.
+ Seek Clarification
During difficult conversations, emotions get in the way of communicating a clear message. So, if the criticism is unclear to you, ask them to elaborate. Getting to the root of their frustrations can help clear the air.
How to React to It
+ Collect your Thoughts First
Often times critique can leave you blindsided or defensive. It’s important to remain calm and collected within the workplace. Collect your thoughts first, or if you don’t feel as though you have the capacity to respond to the critique initially, say, “I hear and understand your concerns. I need time to process this and will follow up with you after I collect my thoughts.”
+ Put It Into Practice or Brush It Off
Often times critique can make you a better performer in the workplace. Being “coachable” means you can take criticism, feedback, or even praise and put it to practice means you are coachable, and that is a valuable asset in any role. Not all critique is warranted, however. Sometimes all you can do is listen to the person giving it and brush it off if it bears no significance or crosses the line of workplace bullying.
+ Document if Necessary
If the conversation gets out of hand, you should properly document it in case you need to bring it to human resources, or worse, a legal professional.
What to Do if Someone Crosses the Line
Workplace harassment is a real issue in today’s workforce. Under the Fair Employment Law harassment in the workplace may be illegal under two circumstances:
1- When an employer, supervisor or co-worker singles a person out for harassment because of that person’s race, color, creed, ancestry, national origin, age (40 and up), disability, sex, arrest or conviction record, marital status, sexual orientation or military services.
2 – The second situation is when the content of the harassment itself relates directly to any of these protected characteristics (i.e. sexual harassment, use of derogatory ethnic or religious terms, age or disability related comments, etc.)
The U.S. Department of Labor offers further resources on this subject.
All in all, keep our cool and spin the criticism as a positive critique. You are resilient and capable!
Have you encountered workplace criticism in the past? If so, comment below with additional tips below.