Industry News

How do you react when your work is unfairly criticized by someone?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 200,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

How do you react when your work is unfairly criticized by someone?

  • I ignore it. Haters gonna hate. 10%
  • I take it too personally but don't react. 29%
  • I rebut their position gently, then move on. 54%
  • I vigorously defend my work until they recant their words. 7%


Split reactions on reacting. Unfair criticism is frustrating and sometimes painful. About 40% of you let it go, while 60% rebut it with varying levels of vigor. For those who let it go, your restraint is commended. Just be aware of the risk that the criticism could spread and become “fact” to others so if it’s not something you want associated with you, consider a rebuttal. For those who do say something about it, moderation is the key. Attack the criticism to vigorously and you’ll escalate the conflict. Do too little, and your rebuttal will be brushed off and ignored. Paramount in all of this is to remember to confront the problem and/or the comments versus attacking the person. The instant you make it personal, the higher the risk you face of an escalated response. Make it about the facts of the matter and the comments at hand, and you have a much better chance of resolving things peacefully.


Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN -- the firm’s e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West Point graduate and author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."