How to deal with criticism in the workplace

HOW TO DEAL WITH CRITICISM IN THE WORKPLACEHave you ever had a problem dealing with criticism in the workplace, dear reader?

If you have, you’re not alone.

Most of us can be a little sensitive when we’re criticized by other people, particularly in the workplace. That’s natural, and I struggle with it just as much as the next person.

However, over the years, I’ve learned that criticism comes in two types, as follows:

  1. Constructive criticism; and
  2. Destructive criticism

What’s the difference?

People who offer constructive criticism are genuinely trying to help, even if that isn’t immediately obvious.

However, just because they’re trying to help doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right about what they’re saying. I’ll get back to that point shortly.

When you’re subjected to destructive criticism, then someone is just having a go at you. To hurt you, for whatever reason.

That may be to bolster their own ego, or they may not like you very much and so can’t resist the temptation to belittle you or just generally make you feel uncomfortable.

Remember, there are people who get off on other people’s discomfort and so like to have a go at people when the opportunity arises. These are the haters and the trolls. They exist in the workplace, as well as on social media.

How to deal with constructive criticism:

When you’re on the receiving end of criticism, don’t take any of it personally. Remember, you’re bigger than that.

Just remain calm; listen to what’s being said; consider the person saying it; and, of course, the rationale behind their comment.

As you absorb what has been said to you, ask yourself this question “Is this person being constructive or destructive?

If you feel they’re being constructive in offering their comment, then the next question to ask yourself is, “Do they have a fair point?

In answering that question, you must be honest with yourself.

Remember, it’s a sign of maturity when you can acknowledge your inexperience and mistakes.

And you can’t learn from your mistakes unless you recognize them first.

So if, after careful reflection, you feel that they do have a fair point, then take it on board and use it as a learning opportunity.

At this point, thank your critic for the feedback and decide how you might use it to improve and be better at what you do.

You might even ask your critic for suggestions if you think they can help you.

Even constructive critics are not always right:

Not every self-appointed critic has a universal monopoly on know-how and common sense, however well-intentioned they may be. Even so-called experts get stuff wrong occasionally.

So in reflecting on any constructive criticism offered, your conclusion might be that they don’t have a fair point. And as long as you’re being honest with yourself, it’s perfectly reasonable to say, “You know what? I think they’re wrong.

If that’s the case, then be polite, thank them for their feedback, and agree to disagree if necessary.

Accept that they offered their comment in good faith and that their intentions were honourable, but just move on without any sense of feeling hurt just because someone had the temerity to question your approach.

They’re entitled to their opinion, but you don’t have to accept it.

How to deal with destructive criticism:

If someone is attempting to be destructive in their criticism, then don’t rise to the bait. Just smile politely and move on.

Do not give anyone the satisfaction of a reaction or signs that they’ve gotten to you. That’s the oxygen on which they feed. It’s the dopamine hit they crave.

You’re better than that, so don’t allow yourself to get drawn into their game. They’re unworthy of a reaction or any of your emotional energy.

And never allow such people to chip away at your self-esteem.

That’s what they’re trying to do, so know that, and as you’re smiling, just say to yourself, “I’m better than you, and your attempt to have a go at me won’t get you anywhere. So stop wasting your time and mine.


Recognize that criticism has two forms. Either way, never take any of it personally, even if you suspect your critic is being personal.

If your critic is being constructive, then be honest with yourself and question whether your critic has a point. If they do have a point, then you must learn from it.

If your critic is being destructive, then do not give them the satisfaction of a reaction. Just smile and move on.

If you’re not sure whether they’re being constructive or destructive, then give them the benefit of the doubt, assume they’re being constructive, and act accordingly.

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