Most of the time, criticism of your work can and should be taken in positive way by thinking ‘I’ve just received the gift of feedback’ and working on improving your artefacts or changing the perception that led to that criticism. However there may be times when you are constantly being criticised, blamed or made to look silly in business meetings and you are getting fed up with the situation. Sometimes you may even feel like you’re about to lose your temper and say things you’ll regret later. Rather than blowing up in a meeting and yelling at someone, there’s a better way. You can respond productively and improve your own capability at the same time using the techniques described in this post.

First – dealing with a tense situation

It’s important to state your point and debate a little but don’t get into arguments. The second you lose your cool, the damage to your reputation has already been done. If somebody wants to argue, you just need to remain calm and try to clarify expectations and next steps for the topic at hand. Then move on and finish up the meeting.

Google something!

After a tense situation if you’re feeling angry, learn something! Look up a new word to expand your vocabulary or read some documentation or an article.

It could be anything.

Turn the feeling of resentment into positive energy. When you learn something you’ll feel happy because you are making yourself into a better person. This will give you the feeling of self-improvement and prepare you for bigger learning to build additional skills and capabilities.

Time to think

If things are not going the way you want, you really have two choices:

  1. Leave the company
  2. Stay in the company and don’t complain

If you want to leave the company but you can’t because you’re not confident of landing another suitable role, you’re not going to be in a happy place with option 2. This is where self-improvement and learning comes in. When you improve yourself and you have the confidence to leave the company, but you choose to stay and work at overcoming the challenges – then you won’t feel bad about option 2. In this case you’re staying in the company because you choose to be there, not because you have to. This is a powerful feeling. Learning, improving and building your capabilities gives you the ability to leave the company at any time if you chose to. Knowledge is power.

It’s like going to the gym versus laying bricks. Both of these activities will give you the same sort of soreness all over your body. However you chose to go to the gym while laying those bricks was a job. The gym makes you feel happy rather than angry.

Build self-improvement into your routine

Now that you’ve established and boosted your motivation for self-improvement, you can achieve more by building time for this into your routine. There are a multitude of productivity techniques you can use here. To mention a few, you could try:

  • Booking in an exam for a course like PRINCE2, ITIL or Professional Scrum Master; having paid for an exam that’s fast approaching and with no refunds can be a great motivator!
  • Setting aside a certain time each week, e.g. a 2 hour block every Monday and Wednesday after work and before going home – and using this time to progress through a book
  • Add a small extra-curricular learning task to your daily 1-2-3 list and make sure you complete that – if you find you’re never getting around to it, make it your most important task and tackle it first thing in the morning.
  • Wake up a couple of hours earlier (or stay up a couple of hours later if you’re a night owl) and use the time to study – you could try this on Saturday and Sunday mornings if the weekdays are too busy.
  • Use goal setting techniques to motivate you and ensure you are focussed.

Another thing to consider – managers you respect

Look around at the managers and leaders you respect. There’s probably one who has quite a few lazy or bad tempered people working under them. The manager has these resources yet still needs to deliver excellence to the executives above them. Even after multiple delays and un-met expectations, the manager says everything’s fine, everyone is working hard; we just need to manage expectations. Now think about your situation. Your situation is probably nowhere near theirs and they always deal with things positively so you can achieve that capability as well.

Repeatedly responding to criticism this way will make a calm and positive response come naturally to you and it will help you get to the level of maturity needed to be a great manager and leader yourself.

What works for you when overcoming un-constructive criticism?