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Love is filling the air this February, and while we may be less enthusiastic about it, tough love should be, too. It’s second nature to accept compliments and praise, but it’s not so easy to accept constructive criticism. However, in the workplace, you’re never going to be able to escape the dreaded constructive criticism conversations, so it’s important to understand how to take this feedback in stride.  

As the receiver of constructive criticism, it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits and get upset instead. To help with this, we have compiled a list of effective ways to handle and utilize constructive criticism in the workplace, so you aren’t “seeing red” this February…unless it’s Valentine’s Day decorations, of course.  

What is constructive criticism?  

Constructive criticism is specific, actionable feedback that aims to better your overall performance. Examples of this in the workplace could be something like a supervisor telling you your presentation wasn’t up to par and had several mistakes, or a coworker pointing out that you don’t communicate well with the rest of the team. The purpose of giving constructive criticism in the workplace is to identify areas that require improvement and discuss how to address them. 

Hold Back That Initial Reaction 

It’s natural to get defensive when we feel like our character and behavior is being questioned. However, a negative reaction to the constructive criticism you receive can quickly turn a productive conversation into an inappropriate disagreement. When receiving constructive criticism in the workplace, take a deep breath and resist the initial urge to push back. Make sure you listen closely to what’s being said to you and remain professional with your words and facial expressions.  

Fighting your urge to snap is easier said than done, so also try reframing the way you view constructive criticism to help you react to it in a more positive way. Think of it as feedback on an opportunity to improve your skills and efficiency rather than criticism meant to belittle and embarrass you. The more comfortable you are with the concept of it, the more receptive you’ll be. 

Don’t Blame the Critic 

Constructive criticism can be tough to receive, but it’s just as difficult to give. When you are receiving feedback, it’s important to remember that the person giving it may also feel scared or uncomfortable. Try not to get angry or blame them for the criticism, even if you feel it’s unwarranted. It’s important to understand that they are trying to help you succeed and reach your full potential. 

Make Sure to Ask Questions 

To ensure that you get the most out of feedback, it is best to hold any questions you have until the end of the conversation. Alternatively, if you feel unprepared to ask questions at the moment, you can set up a meeting to follow up on the feedback at a later time. Asking questions can help clarify the situation and allow you to explore details like any past events that may have led up to the feedback or advice on how you can prevent similar situations in the future. 

Tough Love 

None of this is to say that receiving constructive criticism in the workplace is easy, nor is it expected to be. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable and disappointed when someone critiques your work. However, it’s equally important to acknowledge that making occasional mistakes at work is normal, and your supervisor and coworkers are allowed to provide feedback about the work you do. Hopefully, this February, you can learn to love (or at least accept) tough love.