by Jeremy Willinger
In any business environment, all employees, from the intern to the CEO, will be the recipient of criticism. Yet, it is how we handle these critiques (and even reprimands) that highlight our maturity and professionalism.
The most important rule of receiving criticism, however hard to accept, is to not react in the moment. Feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, and shock can easily manifest themselves when confronted by superiors, but recognizing them and putting them aside to better concentrate on listening to the work appraisal will be beneficial in the long run. You don’t have to agree or disagree with their criticism, just collect the information. Ask questions in an effort to seek clarification, further examples, and additional detail. Inquire as to what their recommendations are about how to resolve the issues. In line with good business etiquette, be sure to convey that you appreciate the opportunity to bring these concerns to light.
Afterwards, take time to confront your feelings and conduct any personal assessment. Also important during this time is reevaluating the criticism itself. What was the tone of the person delivering the analysis—harsh? Reluctant? Rueful? In many ways, this can shed light on what your next steps should be (in light of their recommendations). Making the needed changes in the workplace is straightforward enough, but if the criticism seems unfounded, and you feel unnecessarily singled out, it may be time to seek another place of employment.
If you are the one delivering the criticism, the workplace etiquette dictates that you keep an even tone, and not succumb to an emotional response if the meeting does not go smoothly. Scheduling a time to speak with your colleague will allow them to prepare, instead of making it seem like the criticism is a total surprise. Though the word “criticism” can have a harsh undertone, it must actually be portrayed as an opportunity for improvement—and bridge building. While each industry is specific to the type of criticism offered, the manner in which you deliver it should always come from a position of guidance rather than condemnation. Group business etiquette seminars are very helpful in creating an effective and collaborative workplace in any business setting.
By using criticism as a tool for motivation and good business etiquette, you will be seen as a team player who can accept constructive criticism and work well with others, despite seeing things differently.