Business Etiquette: Accepting Office Criticism with Grace

Before walking into your next performance review, take a look at the tips below to prepare yourself for constructive (and perhaps even some not-so-constructive) criticism in the workplace.

With deep breaths and an open mind, you’ll be armed with knowledge!

How to Accept Office Criticism with Grace:

  1. Be mindful of your body language.  When offered constructive criticism, pay special attention to your body language. Assume a “neutral” posture; keep your arms on the table, in your lap or a combination of both. Maintain eye contact, and be aware of your shifting weight. Avoid crossing your arms, tightening your fists, pursing your lips or rolling your eyes.
  2. Arrive prepared.  Reflect back and take an objective look at your past and current performance.  Have you made mistakes that have affected the company’s bottom line? Do you have a habit of arriving late or missing deadlines?  If so, have a well thought-out action plan that you have taken (or will take immediately) to remedy your behavior.  Bring along a list of positive contributions you’ve made to move the department forward.  And, whatever you do, bring a pen and paper to the meeting!
  3. When constructive criticism is offered, don’t immediately respond with angry excuses. Instead, pause for a moment to allow yourself time to process the critique, then respond in calm and polished manner. If you need more time to respond, it is fine to calmly say, “I appreciate you bringing this to my attention and will follow-up with you on how I plan to overcome this challenge.” If you feel the feedback is unduly harsh or unfair, ask for some time to process the information while you formulate your next step.
  4. Ask thoughtful questions. Asking for your employer’s advice on how you can improve shows your commitment to both the company and your responsibilities.
  5. Listen intently when receiving criticism from a colleague.  When a colleague critiques your performance or project, listen carefully to what he or she is saying before responding.  Trust your instincts but also eliminate your own ego when determining whether the comment is fair. Offer thoughtful feedback as long as it is constructive – especially if you are collaborating on a project together.  If you are leveled with criticism that really concerns you or makes you feel uncomfortable with your work environment, schedule a meeting to talk to your supervisor.
  6. Show gratitude.  Delivering constructive criticism can be a challenge.  Demonstrate your grace by thanking your boss or colleague for his or her honesty and professionalism when offering feedback. Ask for clarification if you have any questions.

No one likes criticism, but it should be thought of as an opportunity for improvement and growth. One of my favorite quotes is “Keep Calm and Carry On”.


Diane Gottsman

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert and modern manners professional, sought out industry leader, television personality, accomplished speaker, Huffington Post blogger, author, and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Diane is routinely quoted in national and international media including The New York Times, The BBC, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Kiplinger, Huffington Post Canada, U.S. News and World Report, and Forbes. She is the resident etiquette expert for two popular morning talk shows, SA Living and Good Day Austin. She has been seen on The TODAY Show, HLN Headline News, WGN Chicago, and CBS Sunday Morning. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies and her workshops cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media.

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