Managing Criticism

This post is inspired by a friend on Facebook that posted a recipe she is trying out to meet her new nutritional needs due to a recent heart issue. Several people immediately criticized her for using fat free cheese. Since this is a very recent event that she is recovering from she is trying to find her way with the assistance of her physician and family to what is best for her health. A post she made follow the criticism showed that she had been hurt by this. This lady is not immune to criticism as she is a blogger, writer, speaker and teacher. But the way in which the particular comments were delivered were especially hurtful.

Have you stepped out there and shared your opinion on social media, with your work family, with a client, etc. only to be shot down or attacked?

While this particular instance was on social media, I am sure that most of you, if not all, can relate to a similar incident in your life that wasn’t on social media. I can be very outspoken. This can be both a plus and a minus. I learned years ago how to deal with  the criticism, when to worry about it and when to let it just be. In the corporate world often you are stepping on someone else’s toes. They may feel that their only way to protect their territory is to attack you.

What I find sad is when someone in a business is in fear of opening their mouth to answer a basic process questions due to being criticized for their opinion. In my work with insurance agencies, if often find one or two individuals in an agency in this position. In many of these situations the individual is very competent in their job. They are methodical individuals that keep their head done and get their work done correctly. They also usually get more work done each day than their piers. The opposing individuals that have their own way of doing things or want to cut corners and they do NOT want to hear from this person.

It is one of my biggest challenges to make this members of an agency to feel comfortable and secure in our meetings. They must know that all comments and ideas are welcome. None will be criticized. All will be discussed for its pros & cons and a decision will be made based on what works best for the agency. In some agencies the culture already fosters this process, but in many that is not the case. It is often survival of the fittest.

At one large corporation, the CEO was reviewing my meeting schedule for one of my visits. He asked why I was meeting with a certain individual. I explained that she ran their processing unit for small business and that I considered her a valuable resource. His comment to me was that he didn’t like her way of getting things done and was concerned I would be led in the wrong direction. I told him I would be learning how they are doing things at the current time and making recommendations accordingly. This seemed to address his issue.

I found her to be open once she understood my purpose and was the best resource I had in the entire company. A couple of months later I was reviewing some proposed changes to the project team. The team made some adjustments and we proceeded. At lunch the CEO wanted to know who recommended a particular process. When I revealed it was this individual and her department he had a shocked look on his face. We had a conversation about this department and how valuable this manager and department were to the whole organization. He had a whole new perspective on her abilities.

Often I find the CEO has perceptions that don’t really fit a number of individuals in their firm. When the CEO is busy and isolated from the day-to-day process they don’t really get to know many of their staff. Sometimes we just get a perception about someone in our heads and someone else had to shine a light on them to get us to change.

Learn to be able to back up your idea with facts. Learn to speak up and speak with confidence. Learn from criticism, don’t be thwarted by it.

How do you handle criticism? What needs to change in your agency to foster an atmosphere of sharing all thoughts on processes fairly?

  • Jason Hoeppner

    Great example of how some of the best ideas need to be drawn out from the folks who handle often-overlooked parts of the process. It definitely is a challenge at those agencies that have a strong, overbearing personality in the group!

    • Jason, yes, so often I see that one person control so many others. Sad when that happens. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Emily

    Great article…I needed this today!!!