How to Handle Criticism in the Workplace

Written by Karen E. Mosier

Personal and professional success depends on being able to receive criticism and deal with it in a calm way. Criticism in the workplace is unavoidable since we as humans are prone to make mistakes. The goal of constructive feedback is to improve your abilities and performance. Self reflection on your flaws or mistakes and acknowledgement of the areas needing improvement will help you handle criticisms at work.    

Here are some key ways to handle criticism at work:

1. Decide if the feedback is constructive or destructive: Consider the intention of the person giving the feedback. Pointing out faults and baseless criticism is not helpful, while constructive criticism will give practical and supportive advice and feedback. Criticism should be a dialogue.    

e.g., Jolene started a new job. One of her new duties was organizing the monthly department meetings. She sent out the agenda and attachments one week prior to the meeting. A committee member criticized her saying that they could never find the meeting material and didn’t have time to go back through all their emails to find it. Jolene’s department head took her aside and suggested that she attach the meeting material directly to the Zoom meeting invitation so that all faculty would have easy access to the information, and suggested she send out an email reminder with the attachments the day of the meeting. Jolene appreciated the feedback from her supervisor and was glad that her boss was helping her improve her processes.  

2. Thank those who offer constructive criticism: People who are in your corner and want you to succeed will provide you with practical advice. It may hear to hurt what you did wrong, but consider if their intention is to help you, and thank them for their constructive criticism and consider them an ally.         

e.g., Mary Ellen had worked about 3 months in her new job as an Events Coordinator. She sent out a group email to everyone in her college to collect attendance for the upcoming Staff Appreciation Day. Many recipients responded using the “reply all” function and as a result, everyone privy to this conversation was bombarded by a stream of unwarranted emails. Mary Ellen felt terrible as she was just trying to do her job and she ended up getting so many complaints. Her colleague Ethel saw her anguish and told her that she had made the same mistake too when she first started her job. Ethel told her to always put group emails in the “bcc” line (and identify within the email which groups were sent the email) so that if anyone hits “reply all” then only she would get it. Mary Ellen thanked Ethel for her advice, and was grateful that Ethel had done this in such a kind manner that she didn’t feel stupid about her mistake.  

3. Minimize encounters with harmful people: Constructive criticism will not tear you down. If you notice a pattern of negative criticism coming from the same person, it may be time to distance yourself from them. Stand your ground against hurtful criticism so that you don’t let toxic people dampen your ability to accept well-purposed criticisms.


e.g., Collette worked as a Program Manager. She wanted to make friends so she decided to go for coffee regularly with Bernadette. At first, their conversation focused more on general topics and chit chat. The next week, Collette noticed that their conversation was taking a turn for the worse. Bernadette started to give her uninvited criticism about her job performance. This continued encounter after encounter until Collette finally decided to speak up. She told Bernadette that she was tired being criticized and torn down and that Bernadette should find someone else for company. Collette was happy with herself that she stood up to her colleague and didn’t let her continue to walk all over her.   

 Remember, don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Criticism is ultimately about improvement. Treat criticism as feedback. Keep a growth mindset and learn from your mistakes. Realize that criticisms are not targeted at you but at the work you do. Perfection is an unachievable standard but should always be sought. Train yourself to accept construct criticism to better yourself and your work.


1. Greatist. How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro.

2. Jennifer Bridges. ProjectManager. How to Handle Criticism at Work. How to Handle Criticism at Work –

3. How to Handle Criticism at Work.

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