How do I deal with criticism contained in the feedback?

Criticism can sometimes trigger feelings of discomfort, fear, or anger, but it is still extremely valuable. When you find out what's behind the criticism, you can learn to use it to your benefit.


  • Critical feedback is valuable because it offers potential for improvement.
  • Think of critical feedback as objective information that helps you identify underlying needs.
  • Acknowledge the situation, convey appreciation, set direction, and ask solution-oriented questions.
  • Use the results by reflecting on differing opinions and selecting helpful suggestions.


When receiving critical feedback, it is helpful to remember the insights of communication experts like Marshall Rosenberg:

Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need.

Criticism also shows that you have people in your team who are strong in performance and personality, which is why it is especially important for them to get involved. Their occassionally critical feedback contributes to a diversity of opinions and prevents a "yes-man culture" that has been proven to be a hindrance. It is therefore worthwhile to pay attention to less pleasant feedback because it often contains valuable potential.

Acknowledge the situation as it is right now

Take a deep breath, lean back in your chair, take a bird's eye view and look at all the players from above. You see different people coming together in an organization and communicating with each other. Everyone has different needs and perceives different aspects. For example, each and every one of us also has so-called "blind spots," i.e., behaviors and personality traits that we don't see in ourselves but that others see very clearly.

From a bird's eye view, all feedback is simply factual information. You can now check for yourself what is behind this information. Does it point to unmet needs? Does it serve to reveal your own blind spot? Or does it simply represent a different point of view?

Prepare a team meeting

As a team, set up a time for you to discuss how to improve the situation. Although team meetings may not be your first choice after being criticized, thanks to teamecho, you know what to expect. Therefore, work out ahead of time:

  • What exactly was written or evaluated (without quoting individual comments)?
  • What hidden needs might be behind the criticism? This way you can anticipate solutions.
  • Put yourself in the role of a team member. What would be important to you about your leader?
  • What behavior would support you?

Reflect on the results in the team meeting

  1. Acknowledge the situation. Give a factual account of what came out of the interviews. Do not embellish or defend yourself. This is more likely to cause resistance.
  2. Convey appreciation. Communicate to your team that you value their honest feedback (even though it may not be pleasant to read at first).
  3. Set a direction. Communicate that you'd like to work together to find a way to get back on track.
  4. Ask solution-oriented questions. Point out that it is especially important for the actionability of the feedback that your employees describe examples of actions they would like to see you perform. Expressions such as, "Please be more empathetic!" are legitimate requests, but too vague to derive specific action items: Does "be more empathetic" now mean greeting in the morning, or does it mean recognizing and addressing when employees are not doing well? In this example, you might ask, "How would you know when I am acting more empathetically? What do I do then?" Ask solution-focused questions in the meeting by always asking for a target picture: "What specific behavior could you see me implementing your feedback?" and "What behavior would you like to see instead?"
    Tip: Offer your employees the opportunity to mention their specific suggestions in the comments section as well.
  5. Express gratitude. Thank them for their cooperation and also for having the courage to express critical feedback.

Calmly evaluate the results afterwards

Helpful questions can be:

  • On which points do I disagree with my co-workers? On which points can I understand their opinion?
  • Which team members' suggestions are helpful for me? What ideas do I have of my own?
  • What are my objectives? How and when can I address them?
  • What strengths and tools do I have that will help me achieve my goals?
  • Which of my skills and competencies have I ignored so far?
  • What first steps can I take to get closer to my goal?
  • How would I know that I have integrated the new behaviors?
  • How can others recognize that my leadership behavior has changed in this aspect?