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Constructive Criticism– How Handling It The Right Way Will Improve Your Career
Feedback and constructive criticism are a consistent part of working and everyday life, it is what drives some to work harder and achieve their goals, or for others, it can be a step back and create a sense of negativity.
Constructive feedback is considered an important insight and life skill that should be used as a tool to help you know how to progress and improve on a task; learning how to use it to your advantage will only strengthen your career path.
The Difference Between Constructive Criticism and Negative Feedback
Giving constructive feedback can sometimes be interpreted as negative feedback, depending on the delivery, tone and manner in which the person shares their thoughts. Constructive criticism can be defined as providing helpful and important insights into a specific or set of issues, typically suggesting a positive change or impact that can result from the change. Though negative feedback can highlight important insights but has a hurtful effect on your self-esteem and pride, which can lead to worsened results on your work product.
To further demonstrate the differences, a possible real-life specific example of when a statement is considered to be destructive feedback instead of constructive criticism may be:
Destructive Feedback Example
Why did you hand in your weekly report late again? Not only are you letting the team and the company down, but you are also demonstrating your lack of organisation and ability to complete tasks on time and it is unacceptable.
Notice in this negative feedback there is no mention of a possible solution, instead it is purely critiquing the individual and enforcing a negative tone, this scenario would clearly lead to heightened emotion and create avoidable stress in the work environment. If this statement were altered to be constructive feedback it would be more along the lines of:
Constructive Feedback Example
I’ve noticed your weekly report was late this week, and because it is not the first time, this continued delay does have an impact on the teams productivity. Next week let’s try be more organised, we could set some time aside to complete the report and see if by doing that it can be completed by its due date.
Not only does this constructive message feel less intimidating, but it offers possible solutions whilst still providing the important insight that the individual needs to hear; a statement like this is what helps people to learn and grow from mistakes which only better their future.
The Six-Step Process to Handling Constructive Criticism
Even if you accept constructive remarks gracefully, it is important to form an understanding of this skill, and learn how you can use constructive criticism to help benefit your current job position and career goals through the six-step process.
Control Your Immediate Reaction
Handling performance reviews and criticism can be challenging for some people, if your typical reaction is having your heartbeat quicken and you start defending your actions with a reactive quip, it is time to accept that getting feedback will always happen in the workplace and throughout life. A negative remark may make you feel angry and confused, but you need to process the situation and not allow a dismissive facial expression to surface. The first step is about respecting opinions and allowing yourself to focus when a person shares the actual issues they are intending for you to learn from.
Remember the Benefit of Feedback
Receiving feedback is the best way for you to learn from your mistakes, as you’re receiving third-party advice and/or guidance for future tasks. You may find the constructive feedback valuable for your future or you may take it into consideration the next time you complete the same task. Many organisations provide feedback and performance reviews to improve processes and benefit customers, stakeholders and the wider community.
Listen for Understanding and Clarity
Sometimes when a co-worker or other individual is offering feedback to you, consider the larger issue they’re trying to address. Generally if a small topic is brought up there may be a bigger subject that you may also look into to check for any possible negative outcomes you can fix in the present. It is important to allow the individual to express their opinion without interruption before you engage in productive dialogue with them as your thoughtful self. Avoid analysing or challenging their comments, instead, clarify their points and ensure you fully understand their reasoning behind the remark. This part in the process is crucial as it allows you to have complete thoughts and generate your own interpretation of the feedback.
Acknowledge your Gratitude and Thank Them
Once you’ve gained a thorough grasp of the comments, it is important to say thank you to acknowledge their time, effort and evaluation. Saying thank you does not automatically mean you agree with the assessment nor that you fully respect the individual, but it is important to remember that even a flawed source can have useful insights and accurate feedback to learn from.
Deconstruct the Feedback by Asking Questions
Asking questions does not entail starting an argument or debating on whether the critique is right or wrong, it is to further assess the feedback and determine any possible solutions to the situation. This is when you can ask for specific examples that in the long run when the situation may arise again in your career, you can do it better and alter your work product.
Request Time to Follow Up
A follow-up meeting is a perfect way to further understand the feedback if you feel that is required, it allows ample time for you to do some research or come up with other possible solutions to the situation. If you’ve already agreed on the feedback raised, this step is to say thank you to the person again and let the both of you move on.
Why Constructive Feedback will help your Career in the Long Run
Receiving feedback is unavoidable throughout your career; therefore it is of value to start learning how you can approach constructive remarks in a positive way. Constructive criticism is the key to self-improvement, and thus by learning from critique and feedback, you will discover how to not make those same mistakes again.
Many career development experts believe this type of productive dialogue can provide you with a competitive edge and an advantage over others in your industry when you’ve received specific feedback on how you and your organisation can improve. Constructive dialogue also forces you to think about your work product and avoid a negative outcome in the future. Whilst a performance review or critique can be uncomfortable to listen to, use the information to guide you towards more efficient and better practises.
The most important thing to remember is that you should not take constructive criticism personally, it is a learning tool that if handled wisely, can improve your work practises, leading to a stronger career.
There will always be occasions when a co-worker shares their complete thoughts and you are unable to hide your facial expression; but despite your reaction, use the six-step process for handling constructive criticism as not only will it improve a singular task, but will also benefit your future career.
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