In some careers, ongoing performance feedback is a typical part of the job. In many creative roles (for example: graphic design, advertising, journalism, acting) feedback is so constant, it can start to feel demoralizing and demotivating. Even when it’s intended to be constructive, it can feel like anything but!
This scenario can happen in any career field, in any office. If it’s happening in yours, take comfort in knowing there are ways around it.
Let’s say your job requires your supervisor to regularly evaluate your work. While you may be inclined to take criticism personally, take a step back and look at it from another point of view.
What has the criticism been thus far? Has your manager made valid points about your work? What parts are constructive? How can you use it to create a better work product? Even if you don’t agree with the criticism, what insights can you take away from it?
What’s going on with your manager? What comments might your manager be receiving from her boss about initiatives and goals that need to be reached? How might that affect the work you’re expected to produce? Based on the new initiatives, might your current work performance be missing the mark?
How is the rest of the team performing? If the team is dealing with “dead weight” from other members, it can make a manager push you harder in order to perform at peak levels. There may be a fear that others on the team will follow suit and also underperform. Put yourself in your manager’s shoes and imagine the outcomes. See if putting in a little extra effort is doable.
Maybe “it’s not you.” Perhaps your manager is experiencing personal issues that affect how she relates to others. Granted, it’s always better to avoid bringing one’s bad mood (and stressors from personal life) to the office but humans by nature don’t always have an easy time compartmentalizing emotions. On occasion they may surface only at inappropriate times. A simple act of evaluating the external factors might bring perspective and alleviate the situation.
What can you do about criticism at work?
Ask for clarification. When you are getting continuous rounds of feedback, ask your manager to outline exactly what he or she wants to ensure that you can deliver the right product.
Ask for performance metrics. Inquire about your manager’s process for evaluating your work performance and what metrics will be used to identify improvements. This will help you and your manager identify improvements to your performance using “real numbers” as opposed to anecdotal information or opinions.
Speak up. If you find the feedback to be excessive or the claims unfounded, respectably make it known. Give evidence to support your claim that your work performance has addressed the needs of your organization.
Get a mediator. If your comments are not being taken into consideration, ask someone to mediate a discussion between you and your manager. The outside perspective might be just what you need to gain common ground and come to a compromise.
–Victoria Crispo, Career Coach