#79 Do You Take Things Personally at Work?

take things personally at work

Are you the type who can’t help but view criticism and feedback as a personal attack? Chances are, when you take things personally at work, it inhibits positive self-esteem and genuine motivation to be your best. Here is a technique to lessen the blow of criticism and feedback in the workplace.

What Others Have to Say About You

Are you familiar with this kind of self-talk, prompted by feedback or criticism:

  • “I’m not a good communicator”
  • “I am bad at presenting information in a comprehensive way”
  • “They think I’m not good enough for the next level”
  • “I’m not a team player and don’t work well cross-functionally”
  • “I’m just average”

Whatever your feedback and whatever gossip may be floating around out there, you’re the kind to take it to heart. If you take things personally at work, every bit of negative or neutral feedback is like another dagger to the heart.

Over time, it can create:

  • counter-productive beliefs about who you are and what you’re capable of creating
  • an exhausting, desperate way of life where your purpose is to placate the world around you

Clearly, these potential consequences are not conducive to being your best!

The Real Intent Behind Criticism and Feedback

Words can mean everything. When people offer criticism or feedback, they often don’t separate your being from your doing. 

Your doing includes your actions, behaviors, reactions, etc. It includes the way you treat others. It includes the way you choose to perform in the workplace, the decisions you make, the way you move through life. Doing things requires you to focus, learn, share, speak, give presentations, etc. Your doing always requires skills, abilities and use of judgment.

Your being, on the other hand, refers to your humanness. Like all humans, your being is 100% worthy simply because existence carries intrinsic value; there is no disputing this intrinsic value. We are all equally created and therefore, no human is “better” than another. Your being requires no activity, accomplishment or thought; it simply refers to your existence. And there is nothing to judge around a being’s existence.

Thus, your doing requires skills, thoughts, and judgments, which are areas that every human can improve. However, your being simply requires your human existence; we need no skills, thoughts or judgments to exist.

The real intent behind criticism and feedback is to offer data points around those things you can be doing better. It means nothing about your worthiness as a person.

Redirect Criticism and Feedback

We have established that your:

  • Doing requires skills, thoughts, and judgments, which are areas that every human can improve.
  • Being requires your human existence, independent of skills, thoughts or judgments.

Let us now redirect criticism and feedback away from your being and toward your doing:

Attack on Your Being: Redirect to Focus on Your Doing:
I’m not a good communicator.Someone thinks my communication skills can be improved, what does that look like for me?
I am bad at presenting information in a comprehensive way.What can I do to improve my speaking abilities?
They think I’m not good enough for the next level.How can I seek additional experiences before I apply for a promotion?
I’m not a team player and don’t work well cross-functionally.Are there ways I can reach out more and be an active listener?
I’m just average.My output has been labeled as average – how might this be true?
Or not true?
* Avoid the “I am” or “I am not” phrases. *Find the activities that can use improvement.

If you take things personally at work, here is the best advice: unlink job performance with self-worth. Your job results, your work performance, your feedback in the workplace mean nothing about you as a person. 

I leave you with two absolutes – Our humanness is always good enough. Skills and performance are always a work in progress!

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