How to handle criticism in the workplace

Posted September 21

In the workplace, you need to take criticism like a professional. (Deseret Photo)

Criticism in the workplace is inevitable.

“You can read how-to manuals, speak to mentors, and try your best, but you’re still going to mess up sometimes,” Liz Elfman wrote for The Muse. “And you may not even realize it — until you find yourself or your ideas being admonished, criticized, or just ignored.”

How you respond to criticism is up to you and can determine whether it impedes your progress or helps you, according to the business blog Brazen.

Staying calm is necessary when you’re being criticized, The Wall Street Journal said. Don’t get defensive, and give the person a chance to express their thoughts. Instead, ask questions to be sure you understand what was expressed.

And repeat back what is said and ask for details, said. This will make the criticism easier to evaluate.

If the feedback upsets you, determine whether it was feedback itself or the way it was delivered that’s triggering any anger. Most of the time it’s the delivery that offends people, Caroline Dowd-Higgins, director of career and professional development at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, told the Journal.

Most criticism isn’t personal, especially new employees, The Muse noted. Separate the criticism from who you are as a person, and instead view it as feedback on a specific action, event, or situation, the blog Crew recommended. noted that while some critics are trying to be helpful, others “may simply enjoy putting other people down.”

Ask yourself as well if the critic is someone “whose opinion means something to you" or if it's a person "who ultimately doesn't really matter,” said.

Sometimes, it helps to talk with someone after, but Brazen advised against venting to a co-worker or talking about it at work.

Once you’ve decided if the criticism is relevant and valid to you, decide what you’ll take away from it, recommended. Sometimes this means corrective action, sometimes it means taking no action if the issue can’t be addressed.

“Sometimes all you can do is resolve to do better in the future,” Geoffrey James wrote for

Brazen noted that one of the best ways to make critical feedback constructive is pinpointing how and when you’re most receptive to it.

Do you prefer it to be immediate or delayed? Do you want an itemized breakdown or the big picture? Determine what you want, and let others know what works for you.

Brazen continued that this can be as simple as telling them, “Thanks so much for the feedback; I really appreciate your input. In the future, though, I take feedback best in private/in writing/in person/etc. Would it be possible to set up our feedback sessions like this?”

Email:, Twitter: @Sarahsonofander.


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