Which has happened to you?
- After you meet a crucial deadline, you expect your supervisor to congratulate or at least acknowledge your efforts. Instead, she critiques your methods;
- You think your coworker likes you until she blurts out her honest opinion of you and your flaws; what she says cuts you to the core;
- Your workplace resembles an every woman for her herself episode of Survivor, and only those with Teflon skin escape relatively whole.
No matter how good you are, you can expect criticism at work. Sometimes you’re ready for it; often it blindsides you. Can you turn it to your benefit? Absolutely — here’s how.
Acknowledge and evaporate
If you argue with criticism, you increase its shelf life. If you instead say, “I blew it. Here’s what I learned. Here’s what I’ll do differently” or “My bad. Here’s what I’ll do to fix this,” you toss the criticism into your and your critic’s rear view mirror.
Turn supervisor critic into your coach
You and your supervisor share a mutual goal – turning you into the very best employee possible. When your supervisor critiques you, say “thank you” and ask her if she’ll be in your corner as you work to improve. What was criticism now turns into a golden improvement opportunity.
Change reaction into pro-action
If you’re normal, you instinctively react in one of two ways to criticism. You attack the criticism or critic, or defend yourself.
Here’s how this looks. Your critic says, “You’re irritating.” You respond, “You’re the one who is irritating” or “I’m not,” make excuses, or justify why you engaged in behavior another found irritating.
Neither instinctive strategy works. Attacking builds or increases the wall between you and the other person. Defending denies the problem, leaving it unsolved.
What does work? If you ask a question, such as “What was I doing that was irritating?” you move the discussion forward to resolution. If asking questions works, why don’t we do it? Simple, we don’t want more criticism and thus we fear opening the conversational door to the critic. The surprise – by opening that door, we give ourselves the chance to change, thus disarming and solving a former problem.
Want to turn criticism to your benefit? Acknowledge it, turn the critic into your coach or ask a question, thus taking charge of the criticism and learn from it.
© 2016, Lynne Curry, executive coach and author, Beating the Workplace Bully, 2015, AMACOM.