Distract the Distractive Critic at Work

Freddie Adams

Having a boss or coworker who makes negative critical comments about your work is one of the most frustrating aspects of the job. When you are subjected to a constant barrage of negative criticism, it has a negative impact on your self-esteem, feelings, and day-to-day performance. In fact, those who are subjected to daily destructive criticism are more likely to suffer from clinical depression.

The non-necessities include ignoring his or her comments, moving your desks, and/or expressing your displeasure.

Another very effective strategy is similar to that of an aikido expert, who uses an opponent’s power and reverse leverage to defeat him.

When you are being criticized by the distractive critic, rather than trying to stop him, try to encourage him to do so productively.

A well-known commercial interior designer told a story. The story was about a coworker who always gives him negative feedback about how the static displays are displayed in the office showroom. His coworker criticizes the color schemes for being poorly combined; in other cases, the layouts of furniture and wall decoration appear crowded and lousy. So the criticized interior designer considered his goals and how the critic (coworker) should proceed to constructively criticize his work.

The next time a coworker made a critical remark, he asked, “How can he get it done better?”

This is an accurate response that demonstrates how criticism communication can be effectively reduced to a sentence. This is what happens most of the time. If negative criticism tells you that “you are winning,” ignore it. On the other hand, if the response is, “I don’t have an idea,” you should clarify, “I’m doing my best.” Continue to say, “I would appreciate it if you would refrain from telling me your criticism unless it is constructive criticism.” This implies to the coworker that you are not requesting that they criticize you, but rather that you request the manner in which you are being criticized. It must be constructive rather than destructive!!! Set up a meeting with your immediate supervisor if this doesn’t work.

When dealing with your boss, try a different approach. Request that he give you some time so that he can assess you productively in your areas of responsibility. I remember Mayor Koch of New York City asking his constituents, “How am I doing?” “How am I doing?” should be the framework for your boss. Let him know which areas you want him to improve in and let him tell you how. Make it a point to emphasize that you want to be a good employee who adds value to the organization. If this meeting is a success, express your gratitude and let him know how much you benefited from his attention, and try to get some search sessions on a consistent basis, no matter how inconsistent, and never forget to follow through on any valid criticism he offers. Actually, you’ve just shown your boss how to harness the power of positive criticism. This is a win-win situation!