How To Handle Criticism At Work

Truth be told, we've all been there. Your supervisor holds you accountable for your team's poor performance. A colleague makes critical remarks about a project you painstakingly worked on. A customer in a bad mood gives you brutal reviews. There's no escaping criticism as long as you're in a profession. Constructive criticism addresses the task or results, while harmful criticism targets the individual. The purpose of constructive criticism is to offer valid opinions so as to boost the productivity of the person being criticized.


For instance, a 2019 survey by Zenger Folkman showed that 94% of respondents said corrective feedback improved their performance. According to Indeed, companies with a feedback culture typically have higher rates of employee engagement and retention. Therefore, digesting criticism is an essential part of a working environment. Knowing how to take feedback into your stride can help you get better at your craft and advance in your career. Let's take a closer look at criticisms in the workplace and how to best benefit from them.

Try to take criticism objectively

It's hard to not be taken aback when a stranger delivers negative feedback about your work. However, there will always be people with more expertise and experience than you in a certain field, and there's no harm in listening to their advice objectively, per Seek. This can be especially true for careers with a specific learning phase or working style. For example, if you're a writer moving from The New York Times to BuzzFeed or vice versa, you must adapt to the publishing standards of the publisher you're working with. In the early stage, you might have trouble fitting in and receive plenty of corrective feedback from your editors. But you have to understand that they're just doing their job and it's the process that every new employee has to go through.


According to, it's imperative that you can discern between what is constructive criticism and what isn't. For example, if the critique is delivered by someone with more expertise than you and is completely factual as opposed to being personal, you should receive it with an open mind. Fundamentally, this kind of criticism broadens your horizon.

React to criticism with calm and confidence

Before you react, make sure you listen carefully and comprehend what is being said about you or your work. Whether the criticism is constructive or provided with good intentions, MatchBuilt advises against responding at the first sign of criticism. Even if the feedback is untrue and you have every right to get offended, do your best to maintain calm and confident body language. If possible, you can halt the discussion, take all points of the criticism into consideration, and come back later with evidence to back up your response. When responding to your critics, try not to come across as too aggressive or passive, per Symonds Research.


The way you react to criticism has far-reaching and long-lasting consequences on your career. If you fly off the handle and say something you'll regret, you'll damage both your relationship and your professional reputation. Responding defensively to the well-intended corrective remarks might also discourage the other person from providing you with constructive counsel in the future. A reasonable response to criticism, on the other hand, will help you score points.

Accept that nobody is perfect

Nobody enters a job hoping to make mistakes, get their team into trouble, and receive criticism. In the event that you know the critique is true, you should acknowledge your shortcomings and move on from there. To err is human, so it's perfectly normal to make mistakes. When you realize you've done something wrong, try to take control of the situation before it worsens. Make sure to offer an honest apology without coming across as defensive. At the end of the day, what people look for in you is your impact rather than your intent, per Ascend.


At the same time, make an effort to be kind to yourself and refrain from comparing your work performance with others', according to TopCV. If you're not careful with your mental well-being when it comes to work, you might fall into catastrophizing and think every mistake is the beginning of the end of your career.

Explore both perspectives by asking clarifying questions

You shouldn't be afraid to ask clarifying questions once you have completely comprehended the comments given to you. Giving and receiving feedback is a two-way dialogue, as noted by MindTools, and you should ask questions to clear up any confusion rather than nodding along just to be polite.


For example, if someone comments, "Your presentation is below par." You should respond by asking calmly, "Which parts of my presentation do you find unsatisfactory?" Another way to tell if the feedback you receive is accurate, as explained by Forbes, is to seek a second opinion. You can ask a friend, a family member, or a mentor for a different perspective and see if the input is truly constructive or just a put-down.

If the critique is directly related to your work performance, you have every right to demand actionable instructions. However, make sure that it is the message — not the messenger — that you're responding to.

Schedule a follow-up conversation for evaluative feedback

According to the findings of a 2018 research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, participants were considerably more likely to retain evaluative criticism — feedback about something they had already completed — than input on how they may do better on a future assignment. As a result, a follow-up meeting is essential.


After applying the given feedback to your work, you should schedule a follow-up conversation to ensure that both you and the feedback giver are on the same page, BetterUp recommends. Through this forum, you can receive specific, consistent information about how you can improve, express your point of view, and develop action strategies.

The bottom line is that you should be aware of the context of the criticism delivered to you. Nobody enjoys being exposed to their own flaws, but it's dangerous to live in a false sense of security. Insightful feedback that challenges you to step up to the mark instead of making you feel wrong in everything you do is priceless. If you've done all expected of you and are still subjected to continual, unjustified fault-finding, you may need to have an open talk with your boss to clear things out.