Handling Constructive Criticism at Work

Constructive criticism often translates to what can also be known as the "sandwich method." In a feedback sandwich, an employer giving feedback will give the negative or "needs work" notes between two positive examples as they relate to each other. 

This is an important method for employers to effectively communicate with their team to drive better results and morale. Handling constructive criticism, on the other hand, may be hard for employees, even if delivered correctly. 

No one likes to be told that the project they just spent precious time on is incorrect or bad, but handling it with grace and a positive outlook is what is going to make you an even stronger employee. Being able to take the praise of good work and being able to grow from the missteps involving the bad will help you to advance your career. 

If you struggle with handling constructive criticism, here are some ways you can work to improve.

Settings for Constructive Feedback

Constructive criticism should preferably be delivered in a space that is quiet and private. This will allow for better communication and less distractions during the conversation. Handling actionable feedback in this setting gives both you and your employer the space and time away to focus on the topic at hand. 

If the setting doesn’t allow for this privacy, then you can ask your manager or employer to move the conversation into that available space if possible. This shows that you want focus on accurate and constructive feedback. 

Tone & Interruptions During Negative Feedback

Combativeness or an argumentative tone is not conducive to effective criticism. As the employee receiving this feedback, let the other person giving constructive criticism speak and finish speaking before a response or remark is given. 

Avoiding interruptions will minimize any tones that could be misinterpreted as negative. It will also a lead to better communication. It may be very hard to accomplish, especially if you are not agreeing with what is being said, but interrupting in the heat of the moment may not result in you and your boss discussing strategies for positive improvements. You'll have to keep a level head in order to achieve this and end on a positive note. 

Body Language

It's very easy to fall into negative positions when taking constructive criticism: the arms crossed across the body and a rigid stance. These physical signs are something to avoid while receiving constructive criticism. By using this type of stance, the employer may not think the conversation is being taken seriously or at the very least that the employee is not really listening. 

Eye contact also comes into play big time when hearing constructive criticism. Staring off into the sky or over the person’s shoulder, or even looking constantly around the room doesn’t give off any positive communication vibes. Try to use a more neutral stance. Resting your hands in your pockets or lap and direct eye contact are good ways to facilitate a positive conversation. Try to remain as open as possible through the conversation, as if it were all positive feedback.

The Bottom Line

Constructive criticism is not supposed to belittle or lower the value of the employees, but make you better. Taking specific feedback, really listening to the positive comments, and being able to work on the negative criticism will also minimize future constructive criticism conversations as a whole.

You can find more workplace insights here in our advice section.

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