Executive Coaching Articles

Coping With Critical Coworkers

If you’re feeling a bit like Rodney Dangerfield (“I don’t get no respect”), you are not alone. From time to time we all have to deal with overly-critical co-workers, clients, supervisors and other “nay-sayers” in the workplace.

Criticism shows up in a number of different ways. It can be blatant and very public, such as someone pointing out your budget errors in a staff meeting or making fun of your idea for a new ad campaign.

It can also be sneaky and snarky, such as the co-worker who critiques your latest project in the coffee room—when you’re not even present to defend yourself.

You’ll need two things to cope with criticism effectively: assertiveness and self-confidence. Take those key ingredients and incorporate them into these four common sense tips to sustain your sanity when the critics are nipping at your heels. (These are based on my workbook Love Your Work.)

  1. Remember. Take a good look at the source of the criticism and recall a time when you might have felt, said or done something similar. Think about how you criticize others. Criticism, when done constructively and in an atmosphere of teamwork, can improve performance and make the whole team look good. But it needs to be delivered positively. Speak in terms of “we” rather than “you.””Could we improve this by. . .” rather than “You really blew that one!”
  2. Reverse your perspective. Take the time and effort to step into the critic’s moccasins and view things from their perspective instead of your own. People often criticize others because they think it makes them look better by comparison. Is the critic feeling insecure in his or her job? Hungry for attention from the boss? Instead of pushing him away with defensiveness, make him a partner in process improvement.
  3. Strategize. Keeping all that information in mind, put your assertiveness and self-confidence to work. Construct strategies to help you understand where people are coming from. If they are criticizing you in public, ask for more input or explanation. Criticism often crumbles in the face of logic.
  4. Remind. When all else fails, politely remind the critics (or maybe just yourself if the critical one happens to be your boss) of the wise words of Frank A. Clark. “Lots of faults we think we see in others are simply the ones we expect to find there because we have them.”