Criticism vs. Feedback

The Resource Link | Criticism vs. Feedback

Have you ever been called into your manager’s office without knowing why? Do you get an uneasy feeling in your stomach when this happens? More than likely you think “Uh Oh…what have I done wrong?” We’ve all been there. We don’t know if it is going to be good news or bad. Are you going to be criticized or get a “good job”? Read on to learn about ways to deal with criticism from your boss.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hearing the truth sometimes hurts.  We are emotional creatures and sometimes we take things very personally.  We can’t help it!  Nobody really likes hearing where they are falling short or screwing up, but we’re not perfect.  Improvement is a necessity in life and especially in business. We are often blind to our own faults and it takes someone else pointing them out to us. When this happens, we must course correct or we can never get better at what we do.

Criticism and Constructive Feedback are two different things.  As such, each should be processed differently. It is important to remember that your reaction to criticism and feedback creates an image of you in the minds of others.  Being able to distinguish between the two is important for this reaction.

Criticism is when someone critiques or comments on some aspect of you with no resolution presented.

Ex: Your Controller tells you that they always spend the most time cleaning up your work compared to everyone else in the department.

Constructive Feedback is when someone critiques or comments on some aspect of you or your work and offers suggestions on how to improve. In this case, they want you to grow and learn and are open to working with you along the way.

Ex: Your Controller pulls you aside to let you know that there are a lot of errors in your reporting. They then take the time to go through how you prepare your information walking through every detail.  Throughout the discussion, you see where you can adapt your behavior.

Do you see the difference?  A complaint without a solution is just that, a complaint.  It is fair to point out that sometimes Constructive Feedback is not given in the most positive light.  Don’t take it personally.  Even if it comes across a little insensitive, it is still constructive.

Complaints can cause stress in the work environment and undermine the team.  Despite complaints not having a solution given, it is important to take it under consideration.  If someone is complaining, then there is a problem somewhere.  Figure out if there is anything you can do to alleviate the problem.  Here are a few ways to internalize both Complaints and Constructive Feedback.

Step 1: Hear the Feedback & Don’t Take It Personally

Listen carefully to what is being said and hear the words with your critical mind, not your emotional one.  It is easy to take feedback personally and think that someone is criticizing you.  It is easy to think that they are tearing down your work because they don’t like you.  In most cases, this is not true.  In most cases the individual is just trying to develop you.  Take a breath, listen to the complaint, don’t personalize it, and hear it fully.

Step 2: Dissect the Feedback

When you’re back at your desk, think about what you were told. 

  • Who was it coming from? 
  • What is their role relative to yours? 
  • In what way was this feedback meant? 
  • Did they ask you to change something about yourself to help themselves or to help you? 
  • What was it they asked? 
  • Was the solution clearly provided?
  • Did they seem open to you correcting the problem?

These questions can help you perform some Root Cause Analysis on the information to determine what the appropriate next steps are.

Step 3: Identify the Source of the Feedback

Once you have evaluated the information, you can see the source of the problem.  Let’s say the Finance Director told you after a meeting that you say “Um” a lot when you present your reports and that you should consider practicing a little more.  That manager is likely trying to help you develop your presentation and public speaking skills.  Instead of focusing on the negative and beating yourself up, focus on the fact that now you know and you can make a change.

Step 4: Correct the Problem

Think about it this way.  If that Finance Director had never told you about your filler words, you may have never noticed.  Your poor presentation skills could hinder you from that promotion at some point down the road.  Instead of focusing on the fact that you are doing something wrong, correct the problem.

Take the advice you are given and act on it. Like we said earlier, good constructive feedback will include suggestions on how you can solve the problem.  Not everyone behaves the same in every situation so you may have to “tweak” the suggestion; but bear in mind someone is looking out for you who wants you to succeed!  Whether it’s the way you prepare your month-end reports, the way you carry yourself in a meeting, the way you hold yourself when the customer is on site, or even the way you make coffee in the break room.  We all have things that don’t make everyone happy.

Step 5: Follow Up

If your correction of this issue is not commented on or you think it wasn’t noticed, consider asking the person who initially gave you feedback if they have noticed an improvement.  This will not only show that you listened to what they said, but also that you care what they think and are actively seeking to improve.  Imagine the surprise on that Finance Director’s face when you ask them to stay after the next meeting and provide feedback on your presentation style.


While these methods will not work for everyone, they will help with the bulk of feedback that you receive in life.  Some people complain for the sake of complaining and some people are helpful towards others.  We have to take the good with the bad sometimes.

We hope that this guide has helped you lay out a path for yourself to improve and constantly grow in your work environment.  If you would like more advice like this, consider reading Remote Promotions: 5 Ways YOU Can Get Promoted Working from Home

About The Resource Link

For almost two decades, The Resource Link has strategically placed Accounting & Finance talent with some of the best companies in Arizona! We consult with our hiring managers and candidates to dive into the best solutions and outcomes and we provide advice and feedback along the way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or just pick up the phone! We would love to hear from you to help you build the best team or find the best career.

Click the image to learn more about our philosophy from our founder.

Bernadette Grattan, founder of The Resource Link

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