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How to handle Criticism at work? An Insight by Mark Goulston (Harvard's Business review article)

So, you worked hard day and nights to develop the codes, assignments and project slides and what not.

And finally your boss shoots you down saying "You have not done well, the client is not happy at all ! Your performance is too week!!"


We all get criticized and pushed back at work in IT sector. And, the best part no matter how great job you have done, how many codes you have written, how many issues you have resolved, they all go unnoticed and if you make a very small silly mistake, that's where your lead and the entire hierarchy jumps into to make a speech..

Let's take some examples:

1. I was driving my car and looking for an ATM to withdraw cash, I slow down finding one of the ATMs, I stop my car and approach to the ATM machine to only find that the machine is out of cash. My wife says," I told you we should have withdrawn cash at home or at the very first ATM, but you never listen to me!!". And I go like this, "How would I know that there will be no cash at this ATM!!?" Or I might say like this: What were YOU doing? You should have reminded me to withdraw cash upfront!!


The first reaction was Defensive

This is our most common reaction when we get criticized. We apply defense trying to completely guard ourselves by making only our decision right.

The second reaction was Accusatory

This is another common way to react when we get hollered upon, we try to shift the blame from us to the second person.

Here is a great suggestion by Mark Goulston in an "Harvard Business Review" article:


We must ignore the first two thoughts that comes in our mind right after we face criticism or blames.

The first two thoughts are nothing but the defensive mechanism and the accusatory approach. I get so deeply humiliated that the natural reaction is either I stand for myself to make me totally right or try to put the blames on other people that might be involved in the act.

Take time to react.

Give yourself some time to think and react, You need to think of a third option to answer at this situation so that we all can collectively reach to a solution

For the ATM situation, I could have said, " Is there any other ATM machine near by that we can use?"

Lets try and  understand with another example.

One of our client reaches out to me and says the drive is 100% full, what is your
team doing , how are they managing space that disk is getting full always.

I talk to one of my team member Ankit and say "Hey, Why are you not checking space and clearing it up
regularly. I am getting lot of escalation because of you!"

Ankit says " Well, I HAVE been constantly watching the space available and trying
to cleanup as much as possible make room for new installations, I am doing the best I can. Did you order new SAN storage to fulfill more requirements?"

I respond him "We can not add space just like that very often!!"

Later I realized that the drive was actually very small and the team was tired of cleaning it up.
The actual solution was we need to add some space to the drive to make it more sustainable.


So the ideal scenario should be..

Ankit: I have been cleanup up space more often but since the drive is small it is getting full even by a small add up. Probably we need to request to extend the volume by 10 GB or more.

Me: Yes and I have spoken to SAN storage team to add more space to the drive. Let me get approvals from product owner to proceed.


So basically here we are applying our third though to get to a solution.


Learn to buy time

So when you have to react without sounding defensive, you need to learn to buy time to reconsider and respond. You need to show empathy and come to a solution. You need to skip the first two very obvious thoughts and go for the 3rd thought.


Use "Yes, And"

"Yes and" is a tested approach to move forward and thrive for a solution. Say, " Yes, and let me get to other approvals/possibility to fix this issues.


Criticizing an average or good doing employee will make it only once. Lets commiserate and create an healthy work environment for all of us for a better tomorrow and a better world.



Category: Technical Solution | Views: 129 | Added by: shanky | Tags: criticism | Rating: 5.0/1

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