Handling Criticism Constructively


Criticism hurts. But since it is an essential element of human interaction, development & growth it should be welcome by all team members as a part of its team culture. Criticism for the sake of criticism is bad, it serves no purpose. So how do we ensure that it works for the critic & the criticized alike?  The name of the game is “Constructive Criticism”.

This is a very positive way of taking care of your team settings. A team leader aspires to develop an environment of openness and trust in his team, but if the leader is not able to handle the critics in his team, there is a high possibility of getting his work, of keeping the team together, undone by this criticism in no time.

On one side, the leader should get the vocal critics in his team to understand this concept of “Constructive Criticism”, on the other side; he/she should also ensure that team members take criticism in the right spirit. To maintain a balance in this protocol, the team members should have a ‘Team Contract’ to handle the destructive part of criticism. This way a leader is able to tone down the vocal critics, by helping them control their urge to criticize unnecessarily.

What is a team contract? Certainly it is not a legal or a signed contract, but a mutual understanding accepted for the team betterment. The leader reminds his team about this contract from time to time to keep things in control and keep the team members in good humor when things are getting tough and demanding.

Criticism can come from colleagues, peers, boss, and the customer. Individuals are affected emotionally when they are criticized.  One should prepare oneself for such eventualities. However, criticisms in the team can have multidimensional impacts on the individual performance, team performance and team environment.

The “Team Contract” can look something like this;

"We the team members voluntarily commit ourselves to this ‘Team Contract’ in the interest of the team. We will abide by the simple mannerisms while ‘Criticizing’ and also when ‘Receiving Criticism’."

When criticizing;

  • Be polite; begin by asking for permission to comment to the individual or the team in general.
  • Appreciate earlier good work and give some constructive hint why you want to be critical about something now.
  • Do not criticize the person directly, comment on the decision, action or the situation first.
  • Be creative, not destructive in your comments.
  • Thank the team members having listened to you attentively.
  • Apologize if you have hurt someone’s feelings.

While receiving criticism;

  • Listen and listen carefully.
  • Don’t react. Respond after a pause. 
  • Ask for clarifications, if required, to ensure you understood the criticism properly.
  • Develop the ability to process information; take in what is valuable, discard which is not constructive.
  • Consider them as positive comments, opinions, and suggestions to reduce the negative impact that criticisms can have on your mind.
  • Thank the person for the constructive feedback.

If criticism is coming to you frequently, talk to your senior, a mentor; find out the possible lacunae on your part. Work to get rid of them.

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