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Glenford Smith | Dealing with constructive criticism

Published:Monday | June 18, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I recently had my personal appraisal and I am somewhat mad about it. My job performance review did not go well. My manager was pointing out to me that I did not take constructive criticism well, and I needed to improve. What is constructive criticism but a euphemism for 'tearing one down', because I don't believe the complaints of my manager or co-workers? What do I do in this situation?

- S.H.

Thank you for your letter. Constructive criticism is a valuable tool in the workplace that allows individuals to grow and learn. That's different from destructive criticism that is aimed at wounding a person's pride and making the individual feel a loss in self-esteem or confidence.

I do not think your manager is intent on you feeling bad. From what you have said - that both your manager and your co-workers have similar complaints - I would recommend that you listen and see what you can learn. The fact is that neither variety, constructive nor destructive criticism, will feel good at first. What separates them is the intent.

Constructive criticism, or feedback, is intended to make you better in the long run, to help you improve and ensure the same mistake does not happen again. Look at it in the way you would look at a lesson, rather than something that makes you feel down. Don't act like it's fatal. Take a deep breath. You'll be okay.

There is a line spoken by Prometheus from the poem 'The Masque of Pandora'

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that says: "He whom the gods would destroy they first make mad". Consider this very deeply, noting that a synonym for mad is angry or crazy. Don't be too quick to get angry. Practise emotional intelligence.

If you are intent on improving, developing or growing, you will need to grow a thicker skin, and you will need to learn to accept constructive criticism. Here are four principles to help you do that.

First, evaluate the feedback for any iota of truth. Resist the urge to get defensive, particularly if you don't agree with it. Ask questions as to why the person feels that way. Ask what you can do to address the situation. Think over what's been said and develop a plan of action. Go back to your manager, show him the plan, ask for his input and get his approval for it.

Second, don't blow up the criticism bigger than it really is. That way, you won't get angry and miss whatever value there is in the criticism. Allow yourself to be calm.

Third, concentrate on the positives in the criticism. Many people would rather obsess over the negative, and end up missing the overall picture.

And finally, resist any inclination to argue. Speak in a reasonable, calm tone. That does not mean you make people trample upon you. But you can tell him you disagree and talk in a reasonable tone.

Many people have received constructive criticism at work and go on to successful and fulfilling careers. It will require emotional intelligence.

Search for 'emotional intelligence' on YouTube and hear what Daniel Goleman, author of a book by that name and an expert in that area, has to say about it. You may find emotional intelligence greater in value to you than intelligence quotient.

- Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'. Email: