Handling criticism at work

25-10 page 23Wherever one works in this world, the strong possibility exists that as an

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uncooperative and withdrawn.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

to irritate.

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

in confidence.

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.

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