Constructive Criticism

Learning how to take criticism constructively is important. How can managers adjust their approach to help their employees take criticism constructively even if the employee is “sensitive?”

Job success and satisfaction are tied together. By and large people want to do good and they feel good when they do. The problem is that all work requires learning and adjustments. The ability and willingness to correct mistakes is key. This is why constructive criticism is so important.

The problem is that the very real humans you are trying to give advice to have their own issues and their own insecurities. And these insecurities get in the way of people actually learning how to improve what they are doing.

So, in the spirit of Humanistic Leadership and business management, let’s talk about what the research shows us about best practices when it comes to constructive criticism.

The good news is that there are really just two main variables that impact how a person responds to criticism.

Self Esteem

The first is self-esteem. People with low self-esteem respond very poorly to criticism. In fact the more they fight it, the lower their self-esteem probably is. Managers can use this information by recognizing that in order to deliver constructive advice; they first have to provide some support to help shore up the self-esteem of the individual they are critiquing. You can do this by complimenting them on what they are doing right and then framing the advice as a way that they can improve even more and do even better and that you are confident in their ability to rise to the challenge.

Gender Differences

The second thing is that it turns out that men and women respond to criticism differently.  This basically means that how they defend themselves from the criticism differs. Men tend to express their feelings outward, in other words, the person critiquing them is the person with the problem. Women tend to internalize it by beating themselves up or taking the criticism as a personal attack. As a result, it is fairly easy to recognize men who have low self-esteem, they are the ones bashing and blaming everyone else for their mistakes.  Women, on the other hand are harder to recognize because the anger and frustration are directed inwards. This is a challenge for managers who will need to make an extra effort with female employees to ensure that bad feelings don’t start to fester and to find ways to assess HOW the advice was taken.


As for the rest of us – what is the advice to take criticism better? Let go of your ego. Your goal should be to do the best job you can and any criticism you receive regardless of why it is being given, should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve. If you are focused on your ultimate goal of being successful, you are more likely to use criticism to help you achieve your goals. 

What was the worst advice you ever received. What did you learn from it?

PS – this post was inspired by a press release sent out by in case you were interested and is based on their research.  -

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