taking criticism gracefully

If your manager takes the time to give you feedback, looking petulant and defensive and perhaps even outright pissed off — as someone did to me last week — isn’t going to help you.

It’s not that you just have to sit back and take it if you disagree with the criticism you’re hearing; you can say that you have a different point of view. But it’s all in how you do it, and it’s especially in your tone.

Bad: Looking furious
Good: “I’m glad you’re telling me this. From my point of view, I’ve been letting some deadlines on this project slide because I had thought that projects x and z were higher priorities and was more focused there. But am I looking at this wrong?”

Bad: Getting defensive
Good: “I hadn’t realized it was coming across that way, so I’m glad to know. From my perspective, it seems like (fill in the blank with whatever your perspective is).”

Bad: Responding with a brusque “okay” and nothing more (this makes it look like you’re more interested in just getting the hell out of your boss’ office than in actually processing the feedback)
Good: Telling your boss what you’re going to do in response, even if it’s just to say you need to give it some thought.

Be glad your manager is giving you feedback. Plenty don’t bother and just leave you to wonder why you keep getting crappy raises. The managers who take the time to give you honest feedback are the ones you want (assuming they’re not crazy, vindictive, etc.).

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Wally Bock*

    Take that last comment about “the managers who give you feedback are the ones you want” to heart. Managers who give feedback get better results than those who don’t both in terms of goal performance and morale. Even better, though are managers who give legitimate positive feedback.

  2. Evil HR Lady*

    Managers need to be prepared with a specific example before they give feedback, however.

    Coming to an employee and saying, “you don’t show respect to clients,” isn’t as helpful as saying, “I’ve received complaints that it’s taking 2-3 days for you to get back with clients. I need you to reduce that time to 24 hours.”

    That way I know what is expected.

  3. Marika*

    So what do you do when the manager is giving feedback that isn’t constructive. I know when managers are giving feedback to sit and take in what they are saying to meet expectations, but what if the manager doesn’t give you anything positive. Like, “you and I are not cut from the same cloth” or my personal favorite, “I don’t know what your educational background or degree is in, but you should consider a new career.” Tell me how you are suppose to take those comments?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would say something like this in response (calmly and non-defensively): “Can you tell me more about what concerns you and what you’d like to see me doing differently?”

  4. AnonyAlreadyResigned*

    Late, but, I had a meeting with my soon-to-be former boss wherein we identified a problem that he had with my work flow. This stemmed from my request to have additional help because I was doing the work of two people. After trying unsuccessfully to wipe out my “rage face” (because this problem has been festering for four months), I sat back, said that I wanted to work with him on fixing the problem, did he have any advice or suggestions? He said he couldn’t think of anything.

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