How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Boss

By Lorena Roberts on January 25, 2018

In every workplace, there’s an opportunity for constructive criticism. Sometimes, this can be hard for employees to handle, especially if it’s their first rodeo. However, even the most seasoned employees can have trouble taking feedback from superiors or coworkers. Early experiences with constructive criticism from a superior will probably make you feel angry. Maybe you’ll be offended that someone thinks you aren’t perfect. You might feel frustrated because maybe you think you’re working as hard as you can and it’s still not good enough.

There are endless emotions that constructive criticism can evoke. But if you learn how to take constructive criticism without accepting it as a personal attack, you’ll not only be more effective in the workplace, but your feelings about yourself won’t depend on what other people think of you. You’ll suddenly be in competition with yourself to be a better person and a better employee. There’s only one way to take constructive criticismlike a boss. Here’s how:

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1. Breathe.

Your initial reaction might be anger, but if you just take a moment to breathe, you can set yourself up for success. Remember that the only reason you’re receiving this feedback is because the people around you want you to be a better person than you currently are. If you don’t have anything to work on about yourself, you’d be totally bored in life.

2. Practice Active Listening

As you’re taking a moment to settle your reaction without completely blowing up with anger and frustration, practice your active listening skills. Pay close attention to what they’re saying to you while truly interpreting what they’re saying. If you don’t understand what they’re trying to communicate, ask. Asking for examples isn’t wrong, and, in fact, might help both of you determine the specific times in which you acted the way you did.

3. Use this opportunity for a discussion.

Instead of allowing a co-worker or superior to talk at you, take the opportunity to morph the conversation into just that: a conversation. When asking for examples, it might be useful to also ask how they would prefer you handle the situation in the future. Is there a better way you could have reacted? Are they suggesting you take a different course of action? Instead of being afraid and wanting to get out as quick as you can (which, trust me, everyone does!), use this as an opportunity to not only learn about yourself, but learn how to interact with your coworkers in a way that everyone appreciates.

4. Show appreciation.

Although you might be absolutely burning inside, show your appreciation for their feedback. They obviously care about you enough to say something — they’re only trying to make you better. No matter how the feedback makes you feel, always always always show your appreciation. And maybe, just maybe, welcome future feedback as well.

5. Share your progress.

Once you’ve taken the constructive criticism and worked toward improving yourself, share your progress with your colleague. They’ll be more than happy to give you a pat on the back. And, again, showing you’re appreciative of their feedback and suggestions will make them feel like you truly value what they have to say.

6. Be a feedback mirror.

Don’t be afraid to offer constructive criticism to those around you when you feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes it’s intimidating to approach someone about their behaviors or actions; especially if they’re a seasoned employee. When a new person joins the team, it’s best to avoid letting them slip into habits that aren’t productive for the team. Offering constructive criticism in this situation is a good opportunity to make your team stronger.

7. Turn the feedback into personal goals.

Once you’ve received constructive criticism from your fellow employees, try to take what they said, pick out what’s useful, and turn their feedback into goals for yourself. For example, if your supervisor or co-worker suggests a way for you to be a more efficient worker, give yourself a time limit for certain projects.

8. Look for concrete solutions to the problem.

After suggesting you do better at “X,” ask for a solution that would work for everyone. The person offering the criticism should have some idea about how to fix the issue. Allow them to offer their own suggestions. Ultimately, you can decide how you want to address/fix the problem, but taking suggestions gives everyone a sense of value and worth.

9. Avoid becoming defensive.

As soon as you become defensive, you allow the opportunity for growth in the workplace to disappear. The person approaching you with suggestions doesn’t mean to personally attack you — that’s not what this is.

10. Make sure you understand.

The last thing you want to happen is for you to misunderstand the criticism that’s being given to you. Ask questions to ensure you know exactly what they’re referencing. Ask for examples and don’t let the conversation end until you know exactly what your game plan is going to be.

Constructive criticism is a good way for personal growth to occur. Learning how to take it like a boss will improve your self-confidence and your self-worth. You’ll be a better coworker and a more efficient employee.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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