Handling Criticism

We just had our monthly departmental meeting and one of the guys present was very critical of me. My boss, who chairs the meeting, didn’t say anything and he did not defend me. I want to correct what was said, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Any ideas for me? I’m a woman, by the way.

While you don’t explain the nature of the criticism, it was obviously inappropriate for you to be the recipient of such a verbal attack.

I would guess this individual has already developed a reputation around your office for “sounding off” although perhaps this is the first time you have experienced it personally.

If he has not been reprimanded for his conduct, he will feel free to continue, even though people – like you – may be hurt. I’ll assume he has been in the same position for some time so he probably has some prestige or standing with the company.

The fact your boss did not chastise him for criticizing you would lead me to believe he agreed with what he said or, more likely, he felt uncomfortable standing up for you.

Your boss cannot let the current situation continue because, in effect, he will be releasing some of his authority to this man who appears to have a very critical spirit. Your boss may even be afraid of him.

Even if there was some validity to the criticism, it is important that the meeting environment be welcoming and non-judgmental. Any discipline should be done privately between a superior and an employee.

In addition, the man who criticized you has no authority whatsoever. In making these harsh comments, he is assuming a measure of influence which, if not checked, will increase.

Your situation is therefore complicated but worth pursuing. Doing nothing is not a solution but it will require a measure of assertiveness on your part to at least have the matter addressed.

It is your boss, ultimately, who will need to intervene. As the leader, he sets the tone for meetings and the department in general. He is apparently a somewhat cautious person, but you should not endure further public criticism from this co-worker because of his timidity.

I’d recommend you meet privately with your boss at the earliest opportunity. Explain your concerns clearly and be careful not to become emotional. Ask him specifically to correct the impression that was left at the previous meeting.

If you sense your boss is uncomfortable with confronting the critical co-worker, you may need to re-evaluate your career plans with the company. Management should be supportive of employees like you and failure to treat everyone equally will almost certainly lead to a poor work environment.

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