How to handle and bounce back from criticism at work

By Mia Barnes
Hearing harsh words about your work can leave you feeling helpless. However, these words aren't a reflection of you. Here's how to deal with them properly

No matter how hard you try, you're bound to encounter pushback at some point in your career. If someone says hurtful words to you, it can feel harrowing and leave you feeling vulnerable at your workplace. Sometimes, it's difficult to look past all the clouds and see the silver lining.

You should know you're tenacious enough to keep moving forward despite everything against you. Take these tips to heart to help you get through a complex situation.

Don't Take It Personally

Since you spend so much time at work, it makes sense that you can't help but take that person's words to heart. Words come from within people and reveal something about the speaker's character, so you should remember that their words are more of a reflection of them than you.

You're a person outside of your job and have skills that don't pertain to what you do for a job. Criticism typically is about your work, not about you as a person. Remove yourself from it — as painful as it might be — and you might have an easier time processing it.

Learn to Spin It Positively

Negative criticism can hurt, especially when it isn't worded as nicely as it could be. However, you can hone your skills in finding the bright side of everything by taking that criticism and spinning it into something that can benefit you. Try to pinpoint and reflect on any words that could be a compliment. Did something accidentally slip past you? It's a testament to how attentive you typically are to detail — and mistakes happen.

Look for Coping Mechanisms

When you're stewing on the words, you may feel negative about yourself and your self-esteem could take a hit. Around one in four adults has a mental illness and uses substances, which can be a bad combo when dealing with this situation. When you're feeling down, you may search for ways to cope.

If you feel like you might turn to something to help you deal with the words, search for a healthy outlet. Exercise or baking will benefit you more overall than any destructive behaviors.

Let It Go

If you think about the words nonstop, it might be time to try to let them go. You can show humility and apologize for any part you need to, but don't over-apologize or let the words drastically alter your behaviour. Everyone makes mistakes and you deserve grace just as much as anyone else would in your situation. If you would treat others kindly when they receive criticism, be kind to yourself in this moment.

Seek Support

Sometimes, you just can't handle things on your own. You need to surround yourself with people who love you and can remind you of how valuable you are. Some people are determined to make you feel bad, but your loved ones are the opposite — they want to show you how important and special you are. A good support network of people you love can lead to less stress, which can help you feel better at work, even when they're not around.

Criticism Is Your Chance for Improvement

The initial sting of the harsh words will wear off eventually, but they may stick with you for a while. After talking to your higher-ups to ensure the same hurtful situation won't happen again, it's your turn to do whatever you want with the criticism. If you find it held any truth, use it to power yourself forward. You will become a champion in anything you do — you just have to get back up and keep trying.


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