Few people are immune to workplace criticism — and chances are, even corporate leaders and senior management will have to deal with this reality of professional life. But the trick to coping with this reality is to realise that even the most stinging critique can help you take your career to new heights.

Here are our top suggestions for using negative feedback to fuel your professional growth:

1. Don’t take your professional life personally 

No matter how invested you are in what you do, it pays to remember that you are not your job. It’s easy to take negative feedback related to your performance as a personal attack, but it’s healthier to acknowledge your emotions and put them aside.

Acknowledge that the negative feedback at work has left you feeling upset or frustrated; however, take the emotion out of the equation and try not to react defensively.

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Don’t beat yourself up about what happened, as it won’t do you any good to dwell on negativity. Maintain a good work-life balance and allow yourself time to relax and unwind at the end of a working day. Assessing the problem with a clear head will allow you to identify ways that you can move forward and improve.

2. Consider your colleague’s motivations 

Although a lot of workplace criticism is constructive and valid, there might be the rare case where the feedback is the product of someone’s ego, rather than a genuine attempt to help you improve in your job.

Think about what your co-worker or manager’s motivations might be. Do you really value their criticism? If your gut tells you that the comments are undeservedly harsh or not constructive, take a deep breath and let it go.

3. Recognise the need for improvement 

Sometimes, negative feedback can be painful because you know the comments contain an element of truth. Does your time management truly need work? Could your communication skills do with some developing? In our experience, constructive criticism can help turn you into a star performer at work.

Be mindful of building your personal brand at work, promoting your positive attitude and receptiveness to criticism, and showing that you can take negative feedback – and thank the person for their insight.

Acknowledge your past mistakes and challenge yourself to do better next time. If you can understand what the cause of the negative feedback at work was, you have the opportunity to prevent it. Ask yourself why you received the negative feedback, and if it is true, what you need to do to make a change.

Take note of the points of criticism that are useful to you and figure out how use them to your advantage. Write down a list of specific goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Recognise your areas of development and commit to improving upon them in the future.

 4. Develop your emotional intelligence 

Emotional intelligence (EQ) refers to the ability to recognise and effectively manage your colleagues’ workplace behaviours, and is an important factor in workplace success.

Though it’s difficult, it is important to push yourself to be positive about the criticism and maintain respect for all parties. Listen to what the person is saying and really try to understand where it is that they’re coming from. Your best course of action is to ask your manager for examples of the issue and actionable suggestions about how you could rectify the situation. Be ready to hear and accept your weaknesses.

Use your emotional intelligence when dealing with negative feedback at work and remember that no matter how criticism may make you feel, defensive reactions won’t serve you well. Keeping a calm head will prove to your manager that you take their concerns seriously and are prepared to use them to help you move forward.

5. Learn your lessons 

Once you’ve made a concerted effort to fix the issue or put strategies for improvement in place, it’s time put the negative feedback in the past and do your best to move on. Carrying criticism with you can make you feel resentful and create barriers to your professional growth.

Remember to take criticism seriously, rather than personally. Take manageable steps to improve, understanding the weaknesses that might be leading to negative feedback at work. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the negativity; instead, create actionable steps that will help you feel positive about your path to improvement.

For more professional career advice, read our career hub articles here.

Summary

Even though it might be difficult to hear, receiving negative feedback in the workplace should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and develop. Here's how:

•   Don't take your professional life personally

•   Use this chance to acknowledge past mistakes

•   Consider the motivation of whomever is providing feedback

Use your emotional intelligence and don't get defensive — learn your lessons

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