How Managers Should Handle Criticism

We will all receive criticism, it how we handle it that matters
We will all receive criticism, it how we handle it that matters
Image Credit: Trending Topics 2019

So I’ve got a quick question for you: are you perfect? No? Well good news – I’m not perfect either. What this means is that both of us will, at times, make mistakes no matter how good our manager skills are. When we do that, others are going to see what we’ve done and they will probably let us know that we’ve screwed up. When this happens, how we react to hearing that we’ve made a mistake is very important. We all have to acknowledge that criticism hurts. It really doesn’t matter if it was warranted or not, from whom it came or how pointed it was delivered, it’s just not fun. As managers, we need to not let it damage our self-love and self-confidence. What we all need are emotionally intelligent of methods for keeping criticism from crushing our confidence.

Be Sure To Stop Your First Reaction In Its Tracks

None of us like to be criticized. We all let our hackles rise in the moment we’re receiving criticism. What we need to do is to not let that feeling sustain beyond inception. We need to understand that no good can come from an emotional reaction to criticism. This seems like it should be a key part of any manager training that we get.

What we need to do in order to prevent this from happening is to imagine a camera in the corner of the room filming our reaction as we’re receiving criticism. We would all blush if we watched a replay of ourselves getting visibly irked by the critical words being spoken. You need to suppress that first reaction and cut that unhelpful reaction off at the knees.

You Need To Focus On The Feedback, Not The Criticism

As much as we don’t like to be criticized, we do like to get feedback that can help us move forward in our career. What we need to do is to think of criticism as poorly delivered friendly feedback. If a friend gave you properly couched (but direct) feedback on something that would help you grow, it would be a lot more welcome. We need to understand that even if it hurts a little in that scenario, you know it helps. When you are being criticized find the nugget of helpful feedback, the grain of truth, in the criticism and build from there. Perhaps you can almost turn this into a team building moment.

If you need some help in finding a way to make this happen, here’s a trick to help you do this: recall when criticism helped an outcome in the past. Take a moment and think of the last time you received warranted criticism. Recalling this event will reveal that the odds are, if you’re honest, it helped you improve in some way.

Make Sure That You Understand The Intent Of The Criticism

When we are receiving criticism, we need to understand that there is a reason that the person who is giving it to us is telling us this. It turns out that this is one of the hardest things to do when you feel your emotions escalating in the face of criticism. However, it may be the most important step you can take. We need to understand that it’s critical not to take the criticism personally. We can weed out the unhelpful bits and focus on the most important thing, the thread that is intended by the giver to be useful to you. If the intent of the criticism is to be truly malicious, understand this: you can’t change the words that were spoken to you, but you can change the meaning you choose to give to them.

We Need To Remember That Criticism Hurts Most In The Moment, And Decreases From There

I think that we can all agree that it hurts to get criticism. The good news is that the passage of time quickly helps put the importance of that criticism into perspective. It will sting in the moment. However, you can keep that sting from swelling by remembering that it’s hardly the end of the world. Understand that it’s just one person(s) telling another their opinion in a world where a multitude of opinions live.

Always Assume That Criticism Will Strengthen You, Not Weaken, You

It’s how we allow criticism affect us that really matters in the end. Criticism will weaken you if you keep beating yourself up over it. You need to understand that it helps to choose who gets to criticize you. Realize that not all criticism is created equal and not everyone gets a seat at this table. Make sure to not give undue influence to those who shouldn’t have it.

What All Of This Means For You

Let’s face it. Criticism is a fact of life. Since we do so much as managers, we will always be making mistakes. When we do this, there will always be people willing to tell us what we’ve done wrong. It’s how we choose to handle this feedback that really matters.

So if you choose to beat yourself up over criticism from someone who doesn’t get a vote, you need to mentally dismiss that criticism. If you’re spiraling down from warranted criticism, remember what we’ve talked about – you are in charge of how you choose to handle criticism. Think of criticism as being a well-disguised gift. No, it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but it can only make you stronger. The bottom line is that you have the ability to use emotional intelligence for self-preservation and growth. You can make criticism feel like a tool, not a hammer.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: When somebody is criticizing you, should you say anything to them?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Congratulations, you are a manager. Your job is to use your manager skills to determine what the company needs to have done and then get your team to do it. Along the way, you need to work with each member of your team to keep them on track. Your goal is to make sure that everyone knows what they need to be doing all the time. This is fine, but now it’s time for you to jump to the next level. It’s time for you to become a leader. Just exactly what does this mean and how will you go about doing it?