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There are few things worse than being on the wrong end of criticism. When it’s the boss doling it out, many would far prefer walking over coals than having to hear what he has to say. It doesn’t have to be that way, says A. Harrison Barnes, founder of “If a supervisor is taking the time to point out areas an employee can improve, it means he has a vested interest in seeing that employee succeed”. If we can only keep that in mind during the meeting, odds are, we’ll be far better served and will be able to take that criticism and learn from it.

Most employees will agree that anytime they’ve listened to criticism from a manager, it’s done in a respectful way with tact. The goal is hearing what’s being said instead of looking for the nearest escape route. There are a few things you can do, both during and after your meeting, that will tell your supervisor that you’ve heard what he has to say and that you appreciate the feedback. Here are a few tips to keep in mind, courtesy of A. Harrison Barnes:

  • Your first instinct will be to argue your point. It’s important to resist that urge for a few reasons. First, you’re closing down and not hearing what’s being said, but more importantly, you’re saying, in essence, that you don’t trust the messenger. This will almost always put your supervisor on defense and this serves no good purpose.
  • Keep eye contact, as difficult as it is. This allows your supervisor to say what needs to be said and you don’t feel it’s being dragged out because he wonders if you’re hearing what he’s saying.
  • Keep your calm, says the founder. If you’re upset, keep in mind that you’ll have an opportunity to have your say. If possible, warns Barnes, try to schedule a follow up so that you don’t allow your emotions to take over. If your supervisor asks what your thoughts are after he’s finished the review, ask if it’s possible to take a step back and meet the next morning. It’s OK to say, “Honestly, I’m feeling a bit vulnerable right now and I’d really appreciate the opportunity to sleep on it and consider what you said”. Odds are, he’ll agree to that and will be sensitive to your feeling of being exposed.
  • Agree or disagree, be sure to thank your supervisor for his time. Tell him it’s a lot to consider, but your priority is to be the best you can be in your role. This fosters goodwill and allows you to keep your dignity and pride in tact. It’s easy to unintentionally become your own worst enemy, so the dignified approach is always best.

Remember too that you’re human and imperfect. Your boss is likely as uncomfortable as you. After all, he’s probably on the hot seat as often as those who work for him. As long as you’re being treated with respect, your best bet is to hear what he has to say.

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