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One radical idea that will transform workplace interactions

Shawn Kent Hayashi

Shawn Kent Hayashi

I’m delighted to welcome back Shawn Kent Hayashi of The Professional Development Group, who last wrote an article for us back in 2010. This time she’s sharing some great ideas about making the most of criticism at work.

There’s one radical idea that will transform workplace interactions.

Here it is:

Criticism is a form of collaboration.

Let’s face it, criticism is at the heart of conflict, and conflict is a problem that many of us don’t want to face for a variety of reasons. Some people have personalities that are conflict-averse, and so they refrain from giving feedback that could be essential in moving the team forward. Others who are less fearful of conflict might react so boisterously and negatively to criticism that colleagues and direct reports are bullied into silence.

Criticism can be a problem in the workplace. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it is vital to any company’s success. The ability to deliver criticism effectively and listen to it carefully are the hallmarks of superior leadership. Why? We all have blind spots. Criticism helps us correct behaviours that would otherwise stand in the way of achievement.

Criticism helps you get to the better idea faster

Take Craig, for example. Craig was an effective manager, but a terrible presenter. His presentations overwhelmed people with unnecessary detail, lacked focus, and were generally too long. He also rarely practiced his talks, so he tended to ramble. Craig’s boss knew that if she didn’t sit Craig down to discuss his poor presenting skills, he would never advance in his career.

Change the way you see a problem, and you will open up new pathways for solving it.

Viewing herself as a collaborator in Craig’s professional development made it easier for his boss to provide the negative feedback he needed to hear.

Seeing his boss as a collaborator in his professional development helped Craig to value the feedback and act on it.

Anyone involved in innovation also understands the value of criticism: it helps you get to the better idea faster.

Cathy and Derek work at a pharmaceutical start-up under pressure to deliver results within 6 months to a year. Both researchers know that criticizing strategy, experiments, and data vigorously on a daily basis ensures the best thinking, and the best thinking is what will help the company move forward faster.

conversations that get resultsChange the way you see a problem, and you will open up new pathways for solving it. Change your view of criticism from a source of conflict to a form of collaboration, and you will transform your workplace interactions.

Shawn Kent Hayashi is the business conversation expert who helps executives solve problems within organizations, teams, and work groups. In her new book, Conversations that Get Results and Inspire Collaborations, Hayashi shares her expertise on communication, group dynamics, and team building.

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Dave Gordon says

    There is criticism, and then there is sniping. The best coaches work on their timing, as well as their delivery. Sometimes, we should refrain from criticizing until the recipient won’t mistake it for unfriendly fire.

    • Elizabeth says

      There’s a time and a place for all feedback, isn’t there. Sometimes we all need to take a breath before launching in with our helpful ‘feedback’. That also gives us, as the feedback givers, more time to reflect on what we’re going to say – I know I’ve been guilty of blurting out my comments without really thinking about how the recipient is going to take it, and that can massively backfire!


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