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Jun 15

Handling criticism at work

To be clear, I am talking about when your work or an area of your responsibility is criticised.

I take great pride in my work and I work hard, which makes it all the more difficult when that work is criticised.

My initial response is always defensive, accompanied by the desire to vent, curl up or just put the criticiser straight on a few realities of working in libraries. But with a bit of age and maturity, I now attempt to put personal feelings aside and look at what the criticism is actually saying.

First off, is it saying anything at all?  If it is, do they have a point? And if they do, is there anything I can actually do to change it so the issue is no longer of concern?  If the answer is no to the first two and I have a means of responding – such as contact details, I will either try to get more specifics or explain why their criticism is unwarranted. Having to do this diplomatically is always very difficult, as there is a matter of pride involved – on both sides really. 🙂 And you have to appreciate that they have taken the time to put forward the criticism in the first place, rather than just letting it slide.

Sometimes things are not within my control.  Even if they are, there may be good reasons why things can not change. If this is the case, I respond with the reasons why nothing can be done – whether they be policy, implications, lack of access or whatever else is involved. I also file the criticism away, because things may change in future. If they do, it may be worth revisiting in case something can be done.

Where something can be done, it then becomes about looking at what it is, what it involves and what the implications are. Just because one person doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work for lots of others. Then again, just because it works well for people doesn’t mean it can’t be done better. You have to determine what staffing, resources and skills are required to do this and whether you have them available, amongst other things to consider.

This whole process is generally easier to work through if the criticism is delivered with objectivity. However, when people get passionate about things, they sometimes get carried away and don’t express themselves the best way possible. In this instances I definitely want to ignore what they are saying…………… but don’t. I just take it on the chin, maybe grumble a bit to people who understand and then get on with it.

And if the criticism is delivered anonymously or without sufficient contact details then the frustration is just magnified – because you can’t let them know what you’ve done or why you couldn’t/didn’t do anything.

Fortunately, criticism at work doesn’t come often and when it does it is from an unhappy library user. But they are what we are about, so we need to listen. When you receive criticism from other library staff, that is a whole different issue ………….. maybe a post for another time.

Funnily enough, I take personal criticism better (although I can’t tell you by how much) and am more open to it.

How do you cope with criticism of your work?

2 comments

  1. Hoi

    I agree with you re the criticism by the no-namers and those with the wrong information!!!!

  2. Michelle McLean

    And its so frustrating when you can’t set them straight……

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