More Magazine Issue 26th November 2012

With each and everyone of us there is always room for improvement, in this issue Michelle Dewberry tells us how to deal with criticism in a workplace… 


I for one will openly admit I am the worst person in the world when it comes to criticism hopefully if I too follow these tips I will handle it better:) 

Article – How to cope with the C word. 

Not that one – Criticism. Michelle tells you how to handle negative comments from your boss…

For some people, criticism from an employer can make us more determined to do well at work, while for others, it can leave us crying in the loos. But any kind of feedback is an essential part of our working lives. If nobody ever tells you how to improve, how are you going to get better? Being on the receiving end of a disappointing appraisal from a boss doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it’s how you deal with it that counts.

Feedback often comes as part of a formal review, but can also come out in a passing conversation. So how should you react when a manager wants to have a chat about your performance?

1 Don’t Take It To Heart

Firstly, all comments should be given in a constructive manner. Obviously, it can be hard not to take it to heart when it’s bad news, but there are ways to make the situation better. Always ask for clarity about what exactly it is that’s wrong. If somebody senior sits you down and tells you that you’re not doing well, that’s a general sweeping statement and isn’t helpful. Ask for specific examples about where you can improve. It might be timekeeping, your phone manner, or working on skills for a specific piece of software. ‘You need to do a better job’ isn’t a valid criticism and you would be well within your rights to say so.

2 Stay Calm

If you get unexpected negative feedback, stay calm and listen. I would then suggest saying something like, ‘Well, that’s a bit of a surprise. I’d like to take some time to think about it. Can we get back together to chat about it tomorrow?’ Give yourself breathing space, so that you can respond without becoming defensive or emotional. Afterwards you need to ask yourself, ‘Is this fair?’ Do you agree with what’s been said? Is it accurate? Could your boss have a point? Is it purely about work or is it personal? If you don’t think it’s fair, you need to speak with your boss to set the record straight – but by giving yourself head space, you can work out the right way to do this.

3 Set Targets

When you have a follow up discussion with your boss, ask them to write down any targets that have been decided on. You should ask how your performance is going to be measured. ‘What are the criteria and how long do I have to improve?’ are the right questions to ask.

4 Make Changes

If the feedback’s valid, you need to start changing your behaviour immediately. In the past, I’ve had to speak to employees about their timekeeping, then the next day they were still late. If your challenged about something like that, you have to get it right. It’s not hard to be on time for work, it just means getting up earlier and being more organised the night before. Sometimes it’s not our boss but our inner critic that leaves us feeling unsettled. I hate to say it, girls, but women are far more susceptible to this than men. I’ve known people leave high – powered jobs because their inner voices have been overwhelmingly critical. Don’t make up unachievable goals in your head. Work through them with your manager, write them down and make them do-able. Finally, there’ll come a point when you’re the one dishing out feedback. When you first start giving appraisals it can feel just as difficult as being on the receiving end! I use a sandwiching technique, where you say one good thing (the bread), one that needs improving (the filling), before finishing on a positive note (another slice of bread). It should never be personal but about helping everyone do their best. 

(Please Note: The information is from the More Magazine article ‘How to cope with the C word’ By Michelle Dewberry’  in Issue 26th November 2012, I did not write this!)

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