10 Ways to Handle Unfair Criticism from Your Boss

Whether it is discreetly stated criticism in a performance report or a public outburst at a meeting, unfair criticism from a superior can cause hurt, embarrassment, and frustration.

It can be hard to know how to respond, reclaim your self-esteem and hit your stride again. These ideas by HR experts should help you make some sense of your situation.

1. Begin by being professional about it

The one thing that is worse than being criticized publicly by the boss is responding in a way that others would find unprofessional. Keeping your composure while you receive criticism will minimize the damage done to your image. It is also possible to avoid public outbursts by setting boundaries early on in the work relationship that you have with your boss.

2. Ask for specifics

When you are criticized, keeping your head will help you think of good questions to ask. You need to not be confrontational, though. Rather than ask for proof or evidence, for instance, you can ask for more clarity. You should take no more than a couple of minutes with your questions before you let everyone move on.

3. If you are taking it personally, think about it

Unless you have a special situation at work where your boss singles you out, work-related criticism is usually not personal – it is about an actual issue. If you find yourself getting defensive, think honestly about whether there is a change that you can make.

4. Schedule a meeting with the boss

If your superior seems particularly unhappy with you while delivering his criticism, schedule a meeting with him after you have had time to sleep on the problem. Your questions are sure to make more sense then, and will be seen as more credible than if they came immediately after the criticism was delivered.

5. Do not use you language

When you bring up the episode with your boss, you need to be careful to not make it sound like you’re trying to turn blame back at him.

The meeting should be about a chance to understand the nature of the problem rather than furnishing defense.

6. Try to forget the incident

It is important to choose your battles wisely. It is not right to tolerate unfair criticism when there is a regular pattern of bad behavior. If you only occasionally receive unfair criticism, and if others receive the same amount, it could be a sensible plan to just put it down to a quirk in the boss’s character and let it slide.

7. Get a mediator

If you see a pattern of unfair criticism, you should consider bringing in another manager or someone from HR to take a look at how you work. The new person may be able to shed light on the fairness of the criticism. As long as the person you pick is not the unfair manager’s best friend, you will benefit from the second opinion.

8. Document everything you do

Sometimes, keeping a detailed record of every assignment you receive and everything you do may help you when you receive criticism. If you can politely point out inconsistencies with proof from your journal, your boss may see reason. You do need to make sure that being proven wrong does not cause upset feelings, though.

9. Temper your response

It is important to keep in mind that the current job market is not employee-friendly. In an environment where jobs are hard to come by, you can’t apply standards from easier times.

10. Ask for practical suggestions

Everyone understands that it is easy to criticize but difficult to offer good, actionable advice. As soon as you understand the nature of the criticism you receive, ask your boss for specific, actionable advice on what he believes you can do to improve.

Be sure you remind your boss that you trust in their experience to give you the guidance you need. With such positivity, you will see your stock rise.

Upgrade your experience

Subscribe