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MENTOR - MANAGEMENT CLINIC

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Question...
Question

I have been told I am good at my job by my bosses and was promoted last year. But if I have one major flaw it is that I am not great at taking criticism. Recently, after a bad week, I reacted really rather badly to criticism from my manager and got a telling off from senior management. I have been warned that this could hold me back so would appreciate some advice on doing something about it.

Answer

Most of us hate criticism, though equally we can never get enough of the positive stuff. Another problem is that as well as receiving it, there is a widespread distaste for giving it and this can mean managers do it clumsily. There is an important difference between feedback and criticism. Feedback is offered for the benefit of the receiver, delivered calmly and intended to help. It describes specific behaviour and then invites the other person to comment before mutually deciding what to do differently. Criticism is

one-way, delivered as angry, generalised attacks.

Why do you behave the way you do? My guess is as a child you were on the receiving end of harsh comment by a parent and you fought back the only way you then knew - yelling, tears or counter-accusations. Whatever the cause, your boss is right. These are not helpful behaviours.

You need a robust protocol to help you. Frequently ask for feedback, including what you are getting right. This puts you in control. When you hear a generalised criticism, don't fire back but ask for a specific example. Summarise the comment to show you are listening, then ask: 'What was the impact of my behaviour on the situation?' Ask for clarification on anything you don't understand, then ask: 'What would you suggest I do instead?' Only at this stage offer a brief and calm explanation. Thank the person for the feedback because it is a gift. Without it, it is impossible to improve. Finally, learn how to give feedback properly yourself. This may take a lot of the sting out of it for you.

Jenny rogers

Management coach and director, Management Futures

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