3 Ways to Use Constructive Criticism to Fuel Your Career

It’s not always easy to hear constructive criticism at work. 

But the way we receive this information has a profound impact on our career advancement path. In fact, feedback is essential for growth and we should learn to welcome it. Once you become more comfortable with constructive criticism, you can leverage it as a power tool for advancing your career.

Here are three ways to use feedback to advance your career:

1) Be Thankful

Be thankful that your boss or co-worker has taken the time to provide feedback. For many people, it’s just as difficult to give feedback as it to receive. Only 7% of managers will hold people accountable, leaving many employees without any feedback at all.

When we welcome and invite the feedback, we are setting the stage for rapid personal growth. Don’t view the feedback as a put down, but rather a gift on a silver platter. When my boss takes the time to tell me what or how he thinks I can do things better, he is teaching me what he is looking for.
Tell yourself that if your boss didn’t care about your growth, then he or she wouldn’t take the time to tell you at all. They would likely become frustrated by the things you do and find a way to push you out of the workplace.

A simple way to show gratitude when feedback is given is to say “thank you for giving me helpful feedback”—and don’t forget to smile.

2) Get Curious

Don’t just sit there and “take it”—get curious and ask questions when given feedback. Genuinely process the information so you can then act on the criticism, being careful not to confuse curiosity with defensiveness.

Being defensive is one of the worst things you can do when given feedback. It tells your boss that you refuse to take ownership and disagree with his or her guidance. Getting defensive also tells your boss that rather than using feedback as an opportunity for growth, you’ll probably end up producing the same results in the future.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion. It just means that during a feedback session, you want to get the most value out of the criticism. And putting up walls, defending your actions, or making others look bad is not going to move the conversation forward.

Instead, try asking questions if you don’t agree with the feedback. Be sure to remember that your body language and tone are saying more than your words. Take a deep breath, tell yourself that feedback is positive, and ask for advice. When you can get a full understanding of the feedback, it becomes a powerful tool.

For example, let’s say you’re sorting through new client files and logging them into the computer. Your boss tells you that your records are incomplete, and they would like you to be more careful when putting the information in.

At first glance, it seems to be pretty direct and detailed feedback. But it’s not specific enough for pointed action to be taken, so asking questions may help you better meet your boss’s expectations.

A few follow-up questions I would have are:        

  • Is there something specific that I am missing?
  • What would you do differently to make them more complete?
  • Is there another person who is doing this well?
  • Would you have time to walk though one file together so I can see exactly what you mean?

By asking questions and getting the necessary guidance, we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

3) Take Action

Once you have received feedback, it’s time to take action. Make it a point to never have to be reminded about the same problem twice. Making it right quickly shows that you are open to learning and want to do a good job.

As you take action, don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions to get the job done right. This will show that you care about your work and the final result. It’s even a good idea to let the boss know that you have corrected XYZ item and that you appreciate his or her help.

Invite them to give you feedback along the way so that you have the best possible outcome. The more in line our work is with the desired result, the better we look.

Take criticism or “feedback” for what it is: a gift given to you to make you better at what you do. Don’t concern yourself with the person or the method of delivery. Instead, glean out the teachable nuggets and move on.—Michelle Bruno, President of Bruno Group Signature Events

When you are thankful, get curious and take action, constructive criticism becomes a tool that helps you advance your career. Remember, people offer feedback because they care and want you to succeed.

Looking for more career advice? Browse other tips on the My Promotion Plan blog

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