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How to handle 

Chad Prinsloo | Web Designer

Janine Do Cabo  | Sustainability & Leadership Development  |  JHB, SA

May 2020


We all work hard and give our best at what we do.  After all, no one wakes up in the morning with the thought,

“I can’t wait to fail today!”  Do they?

I’m talking about head down follow-through kind of slogging that earns you a vanilla latte at the nearest Star Bucks; by your standards anyway.

The truth of the matter is that in each and every one of us, whether the root stems from a drive from within or a social need to be seen a certain way, is the natural desire to present the world with what we regard as our very best.

We proudly tick off to-do lists when we feel like we’re in “beast-mode” “boss-mode” and, internally we feel as though since we did it, there can be no fault found in it.

It’s always in the moment our guards down while minding our own business when the email we sent to our superior (of the work we’re particularly happy about) sneakily pops up at the bottom or top right-hand corner of the computer screen.

With a racing heart and palms sweaty you mouse over the email, absolutely terrified that your efforts will not be met to the degree of gratitude and affirmation you feel you deserve. And even though you know you did everything in your power to be a success, the words you tell yourself is, “brace yourself.”


Because no one likes criticism and most people fear it to the point of knees knocking and heart beating outside of their chest.

The truth of the matter is that, no matter how strong of a person, leader, or manager you are, handling criticism still stings.


Criticism though, for as long as we’re alive on this planet, with other living breathing humans with minds different to our own, will come – the onus lies on us to learn how to handle it when it does.


How do I handle criticism from my boss, colleague, or organization head?


  1. Listen without responding.

It is always important to respond rather than to react.

In the hospitality industry, there is what is called the 10 rules for handling customer complaints.  Now, given if you’re not in customer service you may think it wouldn’t apply, but, there are elements you could gleen from solving complaints from the professional complaint solvers. Which according to them after staying calm, the second rule to solving a complaint is to listen, and listen well.  This would require that you adopt the following below so that you can do so effectively.


  1. Stay calm, no really, stay calm.

This is never a nice situation. It takes some inner strength and power.  When someone doesn’t think our best work isn’t our best, it’s very easy to blow a gasket and you may feel very obligated to do this, however, when you’re upset, you lose your ability to listen.  And in listening lies the ability to learn something you may not have known before.


  1. Do not get defensive.

When we’re upset, we become defensive yet another human response.  Becoming defensive as natural as it may seem, builds a barricade between you and the solution, and the solution should ultimately be your end goal.


  1. Don’t blame-shift or start to make excuses.

Taking responsibility isn’t always easy especially when you’re the leader of a team you know didn’t give as much as you did. However, when you take responsibility for their lack of effort or commitment, what it does is it both builds your character while gaining the respect of subordinates, colleagues and superiors.


  1. Assume good intentions.

Before jumping to conclusions when the email pops up, keep calm, and open it first. You may be surprised to find a pleasant email.


  1. See criticism as an opportunity to improve.

When criticism is delivered or packaged in an unpleasant way, it tends to sting a lot more than when it sandwiched with a couple of wonderful compliments.  Not everyone though knows how to sandwich criticism in a way that’s easier to swallow.  When that happens, it is your responsibility to create a filter in your mind to receive what you deem as constructive and discard what may be personal insults.


  1. Be appreciative… say thank you.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but say thank you after the criticism because you should be thankful at the opportunity to do even better at your next chance at the job.


  1. When the emotions have settled, assess the critic, discuss with your mentor, and find a solution if proven valid. 

As mentioned above, this is an opportunity to learn and grow.  It is also an opportunity to practice the habit of filtering the good from the bad.  It pays to have a mentor who can objectively assist you with going over what the meat to eat is (so to speak) and what the bones are to throw away.


Some days your boss, leader, or organizational head just had a bad day, a bad meeting before your meeting, or maybe just received similar criticism from his superior. Be kind anyway. Set the example anyways. Change the atmosphere in the room anyway. Be mature, anyway. This will help you deal with the news better and also help him or her to see that you are open to growth, development, and improvement. Three critical traits needed for stepping into his shoes and your next level up the corporate ladder.

The next time that email notifications pops up on the right side of your screen, sit back, relax and walk into that meeting with a clear and collected mind, ready to grow and make some career-changing changes

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