Poll: Can You Take Constructive Criticism?
Constructive Criticism is Hard to Take
Last month we discussed tips for managing tough conversations so we were curious to hear how you handle constructive criticism. We had a solid turnout with 7,291 votes this month!
Most of your were honest about not taking constructive criticism well (45%). Not at all surprising – no one likes being corrected! Another 36% of you said you could handle critiques provided they were actually constructive. This touches on a common complaint: pointless, illegitimate or mean-spirited criticism being masked as “constructive.” A few of you said you preferred to take some time to process after a tough conversation (17%). This is an excellent strategy to overcome initial defensiveness and assess the validity of the corrections. The remaining 2% would really prefer not to discuss this at all.
Most of the comments touched on a few common themes that all managers should note. What you say can often be overshadowed by how you say it – being unnecessarily harsh, haranguing them in front of others, offering nothing but criticism, etc. are all but guaranteed to get a defensive response. Similarly, if the the critiques are coming from someone who obviously doesn’t understand the situation or isn’t respected, your notes will fall on deaf ears. The lesson from this is that you need to think before you correct and truly prepare for those tough conversations.
Here are the full results:
- Honestly, I don't take it well (45%, 3,246 Votes)
- Sure, if it's actually constructive (36%, 2,624 Votes)
- Not immediately but I can accept it next day (17%, 1,246 Votes)
- I know how to do my job, get off my back! (2%, 175 Votes)
Total Voters: 7,291 (April 2, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - April 30, 2019 @ 10:00 am)
Some comments from y’all:
- “It is easier to take criticism from management that has walked in my shoes or has a accurate understanding of the issue.”
- “I can do without the personal insults.”
- “I usually go into annual reviews already knowing where my areas of improvement are needed. By being self-aware, the criticism doesn’t sting as much. I have surprised a few managers over the years because of this.”
- “It very much depends on the manager giving it as to how it comes off. I’ve had some managers at past employers who were nothing but critical and though I tried, it was hard to take it graciously. I received some criticism on a minor oversight (configuring some presets in a RIP application) from one of our senior engineers when setting up for a trade show. The whole thing escalated in front of the rest of the team, and then he yelled at me “why are you acting so defensive?” Of course, my response was “because you are attacking me!” He then realized what he was doing, backed off and apologized to me later in the day (Our working relationship has improved a lot since then). I don’t get a lot of feedback from my current immediate supervisor, but he sits right next to me, and the biggest complaint I’ve gotten is that sometimes I raise my voice too much while on the phone. So I take lack of criticism as positive feedback in this case.”
- “We see ourselves differently from others most of the time. Constructive criticism is one dimension to self-improvement. Listening and taking action is the second dimension. If the criticism and action to change creates positive results, then I can take it. Change is never easy but it’s worth it when done correctly.”
- “It’s not so much what is said, it’s how it’s said. Keep it positive and I will respond that way but, if you’re going to brow beat me I will react negatively every time.”
- “Have you earned my respect? If answer is “yes,” then your criticism is constructive. If “no,” then what are you doing to change that? A functional relationship is a two-way street. If your “criticism” is simply passing down a brown nugget from so-called leadership and telling me it’s a candy bar and that I should just eat it, then we have a dysfunctional relationship. And needless to say, that costs more for everyone in the long-run.”