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Dealing with Criticism at Work

5 tips for coming out with your pride -- and your career -- intact

by Jill Frank  |  1976 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Everyone who has been employed has had to deal with negative feedback or rejection.  Because we tend to merge our identities with our career, it can be a personal blow to our self-esteem when we are criticized at work.  Whether it’s a job rejection, poor performance appraisal, or office gossip, it doesn’t usually bring out our best side. 

I have to admit, I’ve never been a particularly organized person.  I’ve been to so many classes that I could teach one.  These issues have followed me from school to work, never going unnoticed.  At one point, the work "feedback" would make me break out in a cold sweat. 

Luckily, I was given the opportunity to prove myself.  With an amazing assistant to keep me on track, I was able to excel.  However, if I had let the negative feedback get to me, I wouldn’t have been given an opportunity to shine.  So what do you do when confronted with criticism you don’t really want to hear?  Follow the tips below to come out with your pride and your career intact.

1. Stop and listen.  Our first instinct in this situation is to go on the defensive.  Before you start churning out excuses, take a deep breath and objectively listen to the criticism being offered.  Is there any truth to what is being said?

2. Keep things professional.  Don’t even think about retaliating.  Our second instinct is to list every fault of the person responsible for inflicting this agony – usually to anyone who will listen.  “As if she’s perfect!”  It’s just an instinct, not the right course of action and it makes you look petty and immature.

3. Try not to take it personally.  Yes, it stings, but it doesn’t reflect your value as a person.  Keep it in perspective -- it's work, and constructive criticism comes with the territory.

4. Learn from your mistakes.  If you didn’t get the promotion you applied for, ask yourself if you were thoroughly prepared.  If you haven’t been performing at the expected level, think about changes you can make to be more effective.  Ask for feedback (yes, more feedback!) so that you can improve.  If you are fighting an uphill battle like I was, consider accessing outside resources.

5. Remember that you are in good company.  Even famous people have encountered failure (sometimes publicly) and managed to persevere.  Here are just a few: Albert Einstein, Lucille Ball, Alexander Graham Bell, Clint Eastwood, Michael Jordan, Charles Schulz, Mickey Mantle, Malcolm Forbes, and Woody Allen.

About the Author

Jill Frank is an executive career coach to working moms. Are ready to be a mom that has it all? Get her FREE special report, “How to Control the Chaos and Eliminate Unnecessary Stress” and FREE career tips for working moms at

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2 comments so far...

  • Awesome article!

    Good points Diane.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Uhura on 15th January 2008

  • I enjoyed this. Thanks, Jill! I agree that it really helps to remind yourself of those who plugged away and dealt with failure. I think you can add the Beatles to that list. Didn't they get rejected multiple times before getting a record deal??

    Anyway, here's how I feel about it: I think the thing to always remember is, as you say, don't take it personally. Second, if you feel the person critiquing you does personally dislike you, quell that feeling. You are there to do your job. If you do it well and you are pleasant to everyone you meet, you will do fine.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Diane on 15th January 2008