Article: Shift in perspective: Handling criticism from manager

Employee Engagement

Shift in perspective: Handling criticism from manager

Throughout your working years, make sure you continue to seek critical feedback. No one out there has a personal vendetta unless you are sure they do and in which case you know you have every right to contact your organisation's HR department.
Shift in perspective: Handling criticism from manager

Feedback whether positive or negative is crucial. It helps you as a recipient understand what you are doing right and where and how you are possibly falling short of achieving targets. Basis a discussion with the manager It is possible for you to improve their performance as well as align expectations. Having said that, we are not undermining the fact that taking criticism is easy for we know it is not. There is an interplay of multiple factors that makes you feel misjudged. But, should it really be so? Perhaps not. 

One research suggests that even the best employees dislike criticism. This is a strong reminder of the fact that when performance review doesn’t go your way you feel victimized of poor judgement. Now, how you take the feedback is an important factor in your professional development. If you are determined to improve then whatever be the nature of your feedback, there’s no stopping you from excelling at work. Knowing how to respond to criticism is important. You can’t always assume it is a threat to your identity. How else do you plan to grow if there’s no one to give you a feedback? 

Separate the message from the messenger

When you are given a feedback it is easy to pin the blame on the manager for being unfair. Consider the following circumstances:  

  • when you and your manager don’t share a cordial relationship;
  • when you and your manager have an exceptionally healthy bond; and
  • when your manager has no idea how to deliver a feedback. 

In all these scenarios learn to disentangle “what” referring to the feedback from “who” that is the feedback giver. Don’t you think you mix the two more often that you should? It’s unfair to hold the relationship you share as the culprit of the final feedback. You can’t say, ‘My manager is being unreasonable and criticising me because he/she doesn’t like me’ or ‘Why of all people would they think I am underperforming when I have been their confidante throughout’ or ‘They are plain rude, emotionless people’. Instead focus solely on

Instead focus solely on value you see in the feedback by analysing and collating their feedback with reality. Just because you share a ‘friendly’ bond with them doesn’t mean it’s fair on their behalf to not give a negative feedback. Be reasonable. If you figure out they are right then spare yourself and them the melodrama of arguments.  What relationship they share with you should be secondary and if they are pointing out something it is in your best interest. 

Don’t get defensive

When you switch to defending yourself you start gathering points to counter argue. For you presenting your case becomes paramount and in process you overlook the reasonable points that they may have been trying to make. “Yes, the problem with giving negative feedback is that people get defensive. And, when they freeze in that frame of mind, no matter what you try to say they don’t budge from accepting it. Sadly such employees fail to improve because they don’t understand that shortcomings can be overcome. Personally too I have seen employees behave irrationally when their manager give them honest feedbacks. No wonder they stagnate in their career,” says Animesh Singh CEO & Co-founder of WeNomads. 

Don’t be reactive 

Criticism can come across as a shock and funny as it may sound, you might literally experience a short circuit in your mind. Your thoughts go haywire and you don’t know how to respond so you end up ‘reacting’. It goes without saying that your tone of voice goes unchecked and you say things you will most definitely regret saying later. You start throwing tantrum, pull other people in by playing a blame game which reflects poorly and never works in your favour. Shouldn’t you just introspect some bit? If you don’t agree with the feedback, ask for a time out and let them know you are open to discussion later. 

You must be ready to grow and not stay affixed

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success talks elaborately about two kinds of mindsets: ‘a fixed mindset’ and ‘a growth mindset’.  The fact that you are imperfect shouldn’t be a matter of embarrassment for you. In her decades of research on the relationship between success and achievement, she found out that mindset plays a crucial role.

She writes:

I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves — in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? . . .”

No wonder people who have growth mindsets don’t obsess so much about making mistakes. They will make mistakes, accept and will look for ways to flourish unlike those with fixed mindsets who feel their abilities are fixed and what they’ve is their best.  

Listen with an intent to understand

We are hypersensitive to criticism and see things as either in our favour or not. And, when we are being reviewed we do end up wearing blinders. Garima Pant, Special Educator and Counsellor who has worked with mainstream schools in Delhi and Hyderabad confirms, “To teach special needs students in a mainstream school is definitely tricky. Once when I presented a lesson plan, my department head asked me about how I would be able to make it suitable for mainstream curriculum. At first I was flabbergasted. Here I was having worked so hard on it and it takes no less than a couple of minutes for someone to call it a big misfit and reject it. I switched off for a couple of seconds because somewhere I knew I had to accept that I was overreacting. Once I acknowledged my response mechanism I immediately gathered my thoughts and explained my point of view on how I can make my lesson plan work both ways. That day I learnt my lesson well. I understood the need to analyse before jumping to conclusions. It does make a difference to listen with intent.”

So, throughout your working years make sure you continue to seek critical feedback. Don’t wait for annual work review meetings. Speak to your manager and colleagues on how you’re doing. Talk to your direct reports too. This will not only help you work on the areas you might be lacking, but also influence how others see you as someone interested in doing well professionally. No one out there has a personal vendetta unless you are sure they do and in which case you know you have every right to contact your organisation’s human resource department. 

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Topics: Employee Engagement

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