The Critic and the Critiqued

It may seem like an odd pairing but criticism and the holiday season go together like unwanted fruitcake and the distant aunt that mails it. Though undoubtedly a time of joy, cheer, and kindness to our fellow man, the holidays are also a time when those around us bestow criticism, warranted or not. So, in honor of this time of year let’s discuss how to foster a positive attitude towards criticism in the workplace.

Part of being an innovative frontrunner means fostering communication. Criticism is constructive communication that builds a stronger team-focused environment and is an essential tool for any industry leader. Let’s examine the roles and responsibilities of “The Critic” and “The Critiqued.”

THE CRITIC

It helps to think of criticism as a necessary evil. Before sitting down to critique another, think back to a poor criticism you have experienced. Remember that feeling of embarrassment by careless words from careless people? Strive to not be that person.  A true leader in any field maintains empathy:  an understanding and respect for another’s emotions.

It is not difficult to give criticism, but it is oftentimes much more difficult to understand that the person you are speaking to is, in fact, a person. Approaching criticism with empathy will not only make the discussion more fluid and productive, but demonstrate to those in the office that you are someone whose judgment is to be trusted and valued.

When you enter the discussion as the critic make certain that you have a concise and exact message you want the criticized to takeaway. After all, criticism is often a request. Be certain you, the critic, know what that request is.

At the conference, analyze the person’s actions and not the person themselves; maintain an open door dialogue approach that encourages discussion; do not overload the criticized with examples and end the discussion inviting change in future work and interactions. Of course, adjust the tone and severity of the message with the actions being addressed.

In short, be clear, and be concise.

THE CRITIQUED

Though it is fair to say most do not enjoy criticism regarding them or their work, it does serve a vital role in the professional sphere: when done in a constructive manner criticism leads to personal growth and greatly improves productivity and flow in the office.  But let’s be honest, it is hard to sit there and smile ear-to-ear as a colleague notes your lack of enthusiasm for the big new deal that was just announced. The key to receiving criticism is to accept responsibility and internalize the critic’s message. Think of it this way: Here’s your chance to show off your openness to change and adaptability.

While the knee-jerk reaction to criticism is to present an excuse or dismiss the recommendations for improvement all together, try to be receptive to the critic’s suggestions for change. 

Listen actively: these may be vital changes that could improve you both as a colleague and person. 

Also, beware of body language when being critiqued. That means a definite no to aggressive positions such as crossed arms or a facial grimace, position oneself in a relaxed but attentive manner.

 When it is all said and done, thank the critic for their recommendations and suggest a plan of action for improvement.