Don’t let negative criticism cause you to fail

It’s a rare person who has never heard negative comments or criticism about job performance or personal qualities.

I once worked with a plant manager who openly and loudly criticized everything I did to improve our operation and profitability. He felt I was “interfering” with his responsibilities, and made his dislike known in every way he could.

When I was validating the employment process he accused me of violating the law. “Everybody knows that,” he said. He was wrong, of course, and what I was doing was completely legal, but his insistence made me question myself and eroded my self confidence.

It also made other team members question my decisions.

Old habits of thinking are hard to break, but there are some things you can do to keep negative criticism from causing you to fail.

Honest, candid feedback is necessary for growth, so search for the nugget of truth in the comments, and then look for the opportunities. Even when you’ve made a mistake–and most of us have made a lot–acknowledge the error. Admit it, sincerely apologize, then move on, using the experience as a guide to prevent future mistakes.

There’s no shame in making mistakes. The only shame would be in not dealing with them correctly.

Most negative comments will be about how you do your work, and when that’s the case, learn from them and move on. Ask for explanation, but make your request humbly, not belligerently. If you don’t trust the person making the comment, ask someone else for their opinion. Listen for the intent behind the message and deal with the real issue.¬†

When negative comments are about the essence of who you are, however, examine your conscience to see if the comments have merit. If they do, decide if you want to make the effort to change who you are. If you are comfortable and confident with yourself, just move on and discount the comments, or the sender, or both.

And don’t allow people to be rude or disrespectful in their comments about you. I once told someone I was happy to discuss a problem with him, but not “not while you’re being rude and disrespectful.” The tone of the conversation changed immediately, and we did some real problem solving.

While we’re at it, accept criticism and negative comments only from people you trust. Surround yourself with those people and negative comments will soon become positive feedback on things you need to do differently.

Asking for feedback is a good habit, and can often result in meaningful growth for you. The key is to not let criticism get you down. Use it for your own development, think of it as an opportunity to learn, and build new habits when that’s appropriate.

Remember, your attitude is the key. Make sure you’re hearing criticism in a positive way and not as an indictment of who you are. Grow on!

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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