Seek Criticism: No News Is Not Good News

performance reviews at workDo you want your boss to be brutally honest about how you're doing? Or would you rather work, day in and day out, in blissful ignorance until it comes time to trim the office fat and you discover that you're at the top of the layoff list for your lackluster performance?

While criticism can be hard to hear, good criticism from above (or wherever it might come) helps you identify where you're doing well and focus on where you need to improve. In the long run, hearing and acting on constructive criticism may make you more secure in your job.

Howard McNally, a former chief operating officer at AT&T, told The Wall Street Journal a story about an employee who was blindsided by a layoff despite having a load of positive performance reviews.

The man said he had been lied to. He was right.

"That was a huge learning moment for me," McNally told the Journal. "Since that day, I've had a forced distribution of performance ratings. You can't have more than 50 percent of your people who are above average."

McNally also made managers rank their employees.

"It's important for me to tell a person where he stands," he said.

And it's important for you to know where you stand in the workplace. Protect your job by finding out where you're falling short:

Seek criticism: Don't assume that no news is good news. Ask for feedback on what you're doing ... often.

Question reviews: Don't assume that good news is good news. Maybe your boss just doesn't feel like putting in the effort of telling you where you're lacking. During your review, press for honest answers about how you can do a better job. Don't wait until cost-cutting time comes around to find out that your boss was just trying to be nice.

Act on criticism: Many people talk about the importance of having information. But that's only half of it. You must use the information you have to your benefit. In this case, you must act on constructive criticism. Work to improve. And let your boss know that you are improving. (But don't overdo it. Find ways to tactfully demonstrate your efforts).

Next:Workplace Negativity: The Signs, Causes and Cures

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