Professional settings can often be hotbeds of criticism, high stakes competition and break-neck paces. Changes can happen fast and, whether you like it or not, mistakes are made from time to time. It is during these times that things fall through the cracks and escape our attention.
Then again, these aren’t the only conditions that create an environment for serious criticisms. Sometimes the critique can be directed at a project you worked really hard on, but it didn’t meet requirements or expectations. These kinds of harsh assessments can lead to excessive self criticism, cause you to anxiously avoid criticism at all costs, or influence you to reflexively reject input. Before you let the judgments of colleagues, clients and superiors get the best of you, here are 7 things you can remember to help keep you in the game.
There was a reason you got this job in the first place.
You possess the skills and experience to do your job, even if it may not feel like it. It may not always be easy to find your footing at first, particularly when entering a new career or taking on a brand new project. Just keep in mind that you would not have been hired at all if you weren’t qualified and capable.
Your work being criticized is unavoidable.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do, it is impossible to please absolutely everyone all of the time. Eventually, someone somewhere isn’t going to be satisfied with your work. Sometimes professional evaluations are based more in opinion than they are in solid fact. In these cases, you may want to further educate yourself on the preferences of your clients and supervisors to correct the issue.
Use the suggestions to your advantage.
Another person’s perspective can be a tremendous asset, even in the form of harsh evaluation. Rather than trying to avoid criticism, you may want to try seeking it every once in a while. Not only will it help you get use to being criticized, it will allow you to get a more complete view of what is expected from your work and give you an advantage against your competitors.
You’re not being fired.
If you were going to be fired, that’s probably what would have happened. Criticism is an opportunity to rise to the challenge and make the necessary corrections to your work before your job is in serious jeopardy. Certainly take the insights seriously, but realize that critical commentary doesn’t mean definite termination. Take a deep breath and try to concentrate on making the corrections.
Remind yourself of your strengths.
Negative feedback can lead to a cyclical pattern of self-doubt. A serious crisis of confidence can make every professional decision into a nightmare of anxiety and second-guessing. Before you get tangled up in that toxic spiral of self criticism, remind yourself about all of the things you do well. Refocusing your attention on something positive for a moment may help you keep the incoming negativity in perspective.
Be sure the criticism is deserved.
There are going to be plenty of times that you will rightfully deserve a bit of criticism. It happens to the best of us. However, there may also be times you receive an assessment that is wholly unfair and unjustified. This could be because your work was mistaken for someone else’s, or it could just be that the criticism is purely an emotional outburst with no basis in your actual work. Be able to recognize the difference between what is deserved, and what is unacceptable.
Prepare to adjust your natural response.
Being told to improve doesn’t feel all that great for most of us. In fact, it can be a real kick in the stomach, sometimes. Try to see these negative appraisals of your work as a way for you to improve on your responses and strengthen your professional relationships. If you begin to doubt yourself, look for ways to stay positive and remain confident. If you feel angry and upset, you may want to remove yourself, refocus, and revisit the issues after a moment to collect yourself.
Avoiding and ignoring criticism will likely be damaging to your work, and ultimately, to your career. The sometimes harsh estimations and assessments of your abilities can be extremely challenging to deal with. This can lead you to develop anxiety about future projects and become overly critical of your own work in hopes of dodging future professional critique. It may also make you resistant to the idea of outside input in an effort to prove that your way is the right way.
Having ideas means having them shot down sometimes. And there is no way you can avoid the inevitability of human error. If you do a job long enough, it is only a matter of time until an accident happens or a mistake is made. It is your choice as to how you handle those workplace situations when they arise. When it begins to feel as though you are being overwhelmed, you can choose to cower from your critic or confront them with resilience and an open mind. Remember, in the wise words of Aristotle:
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”