Think of the last time one of your people criticized you. Perhaps it was only implied, but you got the idea. Here are four constructive responses:
1. Agree. If you think the criticism is accurate, say so. The most constructive stance is a simple, “You’re right and I’m wrong,” or “Yes, I did do that.” Apologies, denials, rationalizations all serve to make you look weaker in your team’s eyes.
2. Ask. If you don’t agree, don’t waste time going on the defense; ask why employees find your actions objectionable. Don’t try to fake this one; only ask for information you really don’t know, in a nonthreatening way.
3. Disarm. If you don’t agree with criticism, but your critic is too upset or hostile to persuade you otherwise, take steps to calm the situation. Agree with whatever you hear that you accept; this acceptance will help disarm your employee and allow him or her to be more reasonable.
4. Listen. Not just for the words, but for the feeling and meaning behind them. Restate what you’re hearing to check your understanding, but don’t try to psychoanalyze or overinterpret what’s being said. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can solve your problem together.