No matter how good you are at self-evaluation, there comes a time when a co-worker surprises you with insight into your work habits.  Generally, this is followed by direct or indirect advice on how to improve.  Before you either accept or reject wholeheartedly any such advice, consider the following:

  • Were you just having a bad day? We’re not always on our game.  If you had a bad day and know your emotional state affected the outcome, consider that you’ll do better in a better frame of mind (and work to get there).
  • Have you heard this advice from others before? Chances are, if you keep hearing the same criticism over and over again, your teammates have pinpointed an area you need to improve.
  • How often does the advice affect your work life? Does the criticism permeate through most of your daily interactions?  Or is it a rare, one-shot event that isn’t likely to happen again?  The more thoroughly the criticism affects your working life, the more you should take it seriously.
  • What other improvement goals are you trying to reach? If you have multiple areas that you’re trying to improve, prioritize them so you know what to focus your efforts on first.

Keep these questions in mind as well when giving criticism.  They might make your suggestions more useful to your team members.

-Deborah Fike

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