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Can constructive criticism get you further in your career? The good news is, it can! Read our step-by-step guide to maximizing constructive feedback to your advantage–whether you’re giving it or receiving it.
How do you deal with constructive criticism? Do you tend to take it personally? It can be an uncomfortable experience, and if you feel that you are your work then you will likely struggle with this type of feedback and perhaps view it in a negative way.
In reality, constructive feedback provides valuable insights into your strengths and weaknesses and can help you make positive progress on both a personal and professional level. Learning how to give and receive this type of feedback can mean the difference between your career skyrocketing or experiencing a potential flatline or, even worse, a career nosedive.
So, how should you take constructive criticism to help your career? In this article, we explore:
What is constructive criticism?
Destructive versus constructive criticism
Benefits of constructive criticism
How to handle constructive criticism
How to give constructive criticism
Before we explore how best to handle constructive criticism in your career, it’s a good idea to get a good understanding of the concept and clear away any potential misconceptions.
Constructive criticism is a type of feedback that provides specific, actionable recommendations.
Good constructive feedback is focused on positive outcomes and can help you progress in your career by highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. The person offering constructive criticism should do this in a friendly way and with good intentions. Focus needs to be on a collaborative approach to resolving problems, which also provides the opportunity for learning and growth.
Looking to let a hiring manager know via your resume that you embrace constructive criticism? Emphasize your teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills as well as your commitment to career development and adding value to the company. These qualities show an ability to take constructive feedback positively and effectively.
Beware of feedback that is being projected as constructive criticism but is actually negative/destructive criticism. Destructive criticism is feedback that is focused singularly on the problem and isn’t designed to encourage, help, or support your improvement.
So, how can you recognize destructive criticism? Here are some characteristics:
Feedback that is untrue or exaggerated
Aimed as a personal attack
Not specific or actionable
Lowers self-esteem and confidence levels
If you come across destructive criticism, don’t be afraid to call it out if you fundamentally disagree with it. Flag this with your HR department or a mentor if it continues or becomes a problematic situation.
Constructive criticism is a great tool for building trust and promoting growth–whether on a personal or professional level–if you know how to take constructive criticism well.
In terms of the workplace, constructive criticism is a key way to facilitate business success due to the fact that:
Clear and specific feedback enables employees to perform their roles effectively.
Performance expectations are made clear via constructive criticism.
Employee development opportunities offered following the delivery of feedback can build trust between employers and employees.
Positive work environments boost employee productivity and morale.
If employees are clear on their roles, responsibilities, and what is expected of them, they will become more engaged and teamwork will flourish.
Further, this well-delivered feedback can establish a culture of open communication. Employees will feel comfortable in asking for help, contributing their own feedback, and requesting information regarding career development.
When asked about getting feedback, 75% of workers felt it was valuable and 65% said they wanted more of it. Polling also showed that:
68% of workers who got consistent and accurate feedback were more satisfied with their jobs;
92% agreed that getting negative feedback in the right way would improve performance; and
98% of workers who receive little or no feedback will disengage from their jobs.
From a corporate perspective, “Companies that regularly invest in employee feedback have turnover rates that are 14.9% lower than those of businesses where employees do not receive feedback.”
Adopting a growth mindset is the best way to receive constructive criticism. View constructive criticism from the perspective that it will help you develop your career rather than taking it as a personal attack.
Here are some strategies and tips to try out:
Keep calm and avoid instantly reacting as this can put you in defensive mode and lead to conflict. You can reply to the feedback by saying “Thanks for letting me know about that,” or “I appreciate you bringing that to my attention.”
Process the information, then ask relevant questions. For example, you could ask, “How would you have handled this situation?” or “What could be done differently if this happens in the future?”
Adopt a mindset of “I wonder what led this person to feel this way?” Ask questions such as, “That’s an interesting observation; can you tell me more about that?” or “Do you have any specific examples?”
Show initiative about how you will implement the feedback. Set yourself SMART goals and track your progress over time to show how well you have taken on the feedback.
Adopting a positive and proactive approach to the situation is a great way to facilitate continual improvement. For example, you could ask, “What else would help take my performance to the next level?”
Equally important to learning how to take constructive criticism is how to deliver this to others. Knowing how to give this feedback can help you become a better team player as well as enhance your leadership skills as your career progresses.
Here are some strategies and top tips to help you give constructive criticism:
Feedback can only be constructive if it is focused on the situation and not the recipient’s personality or motivations. One way to express your opinion and make the feedback less personal is to use “I” statements. You would begin each statement with “I think…” or “I would…” instead of “You did…” or “You said…”
This approach is much less personal as it is focused on your experience rather than what the recipient did or said, so it can really help reduce any defensive feelings.
Here is an example of an “I” statement:
“I think next time you could use some visuals on the social media post and less copy. I found that this really boosted engagement when I tried it on the ABC campaign. I would try including a mind map and some statistics to drive the point home. What do you think?”
The “I” statement provides constructive criticism as well as specific examples in terms of previous successes and new approaches. The way this statement is phrased does not come across as a personal attack, and it has more of a collaborative tone.
When you provide any feedback, it’s important to be specific. If you are vague and unclear then the recipient will find it difficult to address and change things. Make sure you have one or two specific examples of how you want the conduct to change to get your point across in a clear and understandable way.
Constructive criticism doesn’t work well as a one-way conversation. There needs to be some give and take in order to make the process work. The “I” statements are a great way to open this mutual conversation, but you then need to allow the recipient space and time to air their views as well as ask questions about the feedback and how they can move forward.
Even if you feel frustrated or the feedback is hard to give, make sure you maintain a friendly tone and positive body language. For example, avoid an accusatory tone, frowning, folding your arms, or sighing with frustration.
Constructive criticism is most helpful when given shortly after the action occurred, ideally within seven days. Waiting a few weeks or months gives time for the specific scenario to be forgotten, so then the feedback becomes less relevant and less effective.
Constructive criticism can be an extremely powerful tool when used properly, particularly in terms of career development.
Adopting a growth mindset is the best approach to taking constructive criticism. Focus on enhancing your skills and experience rather than getting defensive and taking it personally.
Be grateful, seek clarity, and show how you will implement the suggestions you received. Also remember it’s ok to ask for time to consider what you’ve heard.
Develop your skills in providing constructive criticism too. This will help you become a better team player and prove a vital leadership skill as your career progresses.
Focus on the situation not the person, provide specific examples, use positive body language, and be sure to provide feedback within seven days of the event.
Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.