How to take criticism without letting it tear you down?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  David Hayes 6 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    This is something I feel I need to work on. In the past, I’ve experienced situations where my supervisor gives me rough criticism (often when I feel I haven’t done anything wrong, or I did the best I could do in the circumstances) and my it lowers my confidence in the ability to do the job.

    This occurred at previous places of employment. I’ll be working somewhere new soon and I need some preventative advice on how to deal with this. Hopefully I’ll be working at a job where the supervisor isn’t hostile. But I’m so scarred from past experiences, I just want to prepare myself if history repeats itself.


    Nina Sakura

    Dear BJ,

    Criticism is indeed hard to swallow. We internally flinch when it comes no matter how ready we claim to be. More so if it’s rough and we aren’t entirely at fault.

    However, don’t take it personally.

    Easier said than done though, right?

    What you need to consider is how you feel about your ability as a person when you are criticized. There are two points to note here-

    1) a growth vs fixed mindset – your focus is on getting better, taking the good from the shit thrown at you to get better instead of having a fixed belief about your ability. Change your view of critique, see it’s benefits and it’s true purpose. Analyze your views about your ability at your job and see how you have changed over time. How did this happen? Through feedback and experience.

    2) differentiate between constructive criticism and being bitchy – sometimes bosses are plain mean. They say all kinds of unreasonable things. It’s important to know what you can really change as an accountable employee and what is really their personal problem spilling over to their interaction with you.

    Now the next thing is what to do when you are given a “talking to” –

    Usually I retreat to the washroom, take deep breaths, wash my face. If I am especially angry, I write an angry note on my phone and then delete it. In case you don’t have that kind of time, keep a squeezeball on your desk for the unpleasant feelings.

    For thoughts related to your ability at work being linked to critique, consider point 1 and 2 to question your own beliefs. The key to dealing with negative thoughts is similiar to dealing with any habit – it either has to be replaced with a new habit or has to be constantly questioned to prevent it.

    Now leaving all of this aside, ask yourself if things will be really bad this time? You have already managed the previous times – this one surely you can manage. You got the job, you have the capability and also the patience to take the critique that is necessary for improvement at times. The part where you need to draw the line is unhelpful, vindictive critique which borders on unprofessional and bitchy.

    What do you think?




    Dear BJ:

    A “preventative advice” may be then, when you start the new job, to pay attention if the supervisor harshly criticizes other employees, and/ or ask other employees if the supervisor criticizes them often. If so, if this is the MO of the supervisor, then expect it and do your best to not take it personally… because it is not about you.





    Thank you very much for those tips! I will be implementing those strategies going forward. I like the “seperating the constructive criticism from the bitchiness”. That is probably my sticking point. I get so caught up in the bitchiness that I can’t even see the constructive aspects – but I will focus on seeing the constructive.


    Much appreciated. Interestingly enough, I’m starting a new job next week and the supervisor told me during the interview that 3 other people have quit this position in the past 6 months, and that it’s partially because she’s a “tough” boss. So I may be in for it. I’ll have to try very hard to implement the “not taking it personal” aspect.



    Dear BJ:

    Could have been an opportunity, when the boss told you that he is a “tough boss”- to ask him what being a tough boss means, what about him at work is tough. Maybe you can still ask him, as “tough” can mean different things (can mean one who has high but reasonable expectations from his employees, could be being abusive to the employees..).




    I think it’s worth keeping in mind one simple truth. Any feedback from another person can only be quantified as criticism if the person truly cares about you, your performance, your growth and generally follows up with an advice for improvement. Everything else, which is generally what a most of us experience at work, isn’t criticism. It’s bullying disguised as criticism and it’s going to come from people who don’t care about you.


    David Hayes

    Another thought is that not all criticism is about you, the person. Sometimes it is about an action or behavior you undertook. And criticism about actions or behaviors are something you can address. You can stop doing something. Do more of something. Do less of something…etc.. The thing to remember is not all criticism is about who you are as a person, and when it isn’t, it’s OK to not be offended. Simply learn from it so that you can become more valuable to the organization, your boss, etc.., by making a change in what you do, not who you are.

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