Handling criticism at work
individual or team member, you are subjected to criticism in one form or another.
In response, some persons will frown, while others may be more accepting. The
two positions outlined are fundamentally different. The difference lies in whether
the criticism is perceived as destructive or constructive. Those who respond by
frowning upon and challenging criticism are usually of the opinion it is offensive and
intended to ridicule and demean them. Generally, this is where the criticism is taken as a
personal attack. In such a circumstance, it is likely the individual may become tense, angry,
uncooperative and withdrawn.
The bottom line is that negative criticisms, if not well founded, can lead to emotional
outburst and can have a devastating psychological effect
on the individual. It is for this reason that employers,
executives, supervisory management personnel and work
colleagues ought to be very careful how they unleash their
criticism, howsoever warranted, on an individual or group
of people working as a team.
This cautionary approach ought to be taken,
particularly when persons act on impulse.
It is to be expected that an individual who
is negatively criticized by another in the
workplace will question whether the action
is reasonable, valid or warranted. If none
of these is applicable, it may be concluded
that the action serves no other purpose than
It even goes further, for negative or destructive
criticism may lead to a decline in staff morale and
productivity. Divisions created within the ranks of the
staff will help to undermine good staff or management and
employee relations, destroy loyalty and trigger a decline
The fallout from negative criticism in the workplace
can be even more devastating, since it can be the catalyst
for workplace conflict.
It is best to avoid negative criticism, for as a Jack
Zenger, a leadership consultant puts it, “negative
interactions tend to dampen the enthusiasm and
commitment of the individual”. Whereas there is merit in
this view, the calculated effect may be undermined, if one
has the ability to decipher whether the criticism is well
meaning, or is simply malicious and/or mischievous. Since
criticism at work tends to build pressure, one should be
mindful that it is best to adopt a professional approach in
handling and responding to what has been said.
It is recommended that one should listen
and pay close attention to what is said.
Avoid taking the criticism personally and
overreacting. Any validity to the criticism
should not be lost upon the individual, as it is
best to zero in on what lessons there are to
be learnt from it, if any. By the same token,
if it is deemed to be worthless, it should be
dismissed for what it is. It is the genuineness
of the criticism that counts for something.
Acting in a professional manner, there is no harm in
challenging any criticism or seeking to have clarification
on what has been said. This approach should serve any
employee in good stead, particularly where the individual
accepts that he/she is not perfect. In such tense situations,
the ability to analyze and evaluate would do one the
world of good. This would lead individuals in the direction
of reviewing their own work performance, attitude, ethics
and whatever else that may have aroused the criticisms.
Those who feel obliged to offer a criticism,
irrespective of how valid that criticism may appear to
be, should realize that there is nothing to be gained by
being nasty, vicious, unkind, uncharitable, insulting and
condescending in making their point. The lesson to be
learnt here, is that the individual, who behaves in such a
manner, would have failed to communicate effectively, and
in the process, becomes the subject of justifiable criticism.
Always remember that it is not what one does that
matters, but more importantly, how it is done.