Receiving Constructive Feedback Gracefully

We’ve all been there…your boss schedules an evaluation for you and your heart starts to race as you question what they might say. Part of being in the workforce is receiving feedback on how you are performing. Although it is meant to provide you with insight on what you are doing right and what you can improve upon so you can be the best at your position, it’s not always easy to hear! This feedback is given so that you can evaluate what you are doing well and what you can improve upon so that you can perform your very best. Sometimes, being told what skills you lack in or which areas you are underperforming in can feel awkward, discouraging, and hurtful. However, that’s not the intent of being provided with feedback. Instead, if you learn how to accept constructive criticism gracefully and use it to your advantage now, you will be prepared to excel in the future.

The first step is to recognize that nobody is perfect, and you are guaranteed to have evaluations in your future, whether scheduled or impromptu.

Once you acknowledge this, then you can start to change the way you view the exchange. It can be helpful to look at it this way: Your employer cares enough about you to be honest with you and help you improve for the future. This is not against you, it is for you to help you find success in your career and to build upon skills that will be applicable no matter what future career you may hold. If you put this into perspective, you’ll be much more likely to not only feel grateful for the advice, but you will also be inspired to improve. 

Beyond ensuring your attitude is positive for your own wellbeing, it is important that you exemplify this positive attitude to your employers rather than getting defensive or making excuses. Further, it goes a long way to let your employers know how you appreciate the feedback and how you are committed to making an improvement for the benefit of the company, the team, and yourself. Your attitude alone can show your employer how committed you are to being the best asset to the organization that you can be. This is important not only for the success of the company but also for your future, as your current employer will likely be contacted by potential employers when you apply to other jobs in the future to provide insight on your performance and character. All employers want someone who is teachable, so by responding gracefully, not only can you personally improve, but you can also demonstrate qualities that all employers seek.

After receiving constructive criticism or feedback, it is important to not only listen but to take action based on the information you are given. Make sure to ask questions to your employer on what you can do to improve your performance. Ask your employers about your strengths: What strengths do you have and how can you use these strengths to improve upon aspects of your work performance you need to better develop? You can take it a step further to demonstrate to your boss that you are committed to improvement and ask to schedule a “progress report” meeting to see how your improvement efforts are going a few weeks after you receive your initial feedback.

Learning how to receive constructive criticism is a vital skill in the workforce and will continually help you advance in your career. Showing employers that you not only know how to take feedback but also apply it will set you apart from other employees and can increase your chances of getting promotions, raises, and glowing recommendations.


-Jordan Mercer, Peer Career Advisor

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