5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism

Criticism accompanies leadership.

Every leader knows this. Make any decision and some will agree and some won’t.

The only way to avoid criticism as a leader is to do nothing.

If a leader is taking an organization somewhere, and really even if he or she isn’t, someone will criticize his or her efforts.

That said, the way a leader responds to criticism says much about the maturity of the leader and the quality of his or her leadership.

Here are 5 wrong ways to respond to criticism:

Finding fault with the critic

Instead of admitting there might be validity to the criticism, many leaders immediately attempt to discredit the person offering it. Granted, there may be fault — and some people are terrible complainers (some are just mean), but it’s never helpful to start there.

Blaming others

Many leaders realize the criticism may be valid, but they aren’t willing to accept personal responsibility, so they pass it along to others. This is dangerous on so many levels and is truly poor leadership.

Returning criticism

Often a leader will receive criticism and instead of analyzing whether there is validity or not, the leader begins to criticize other organizations or leaders. It’s a very immature response. In elementary school it went like this — “I know I am, but what are you?”

Ignoring an opportunity to learn

This is a big one, because criticism can be a great teaching tool. It needs a filter. The person and circumstances need to be taken into consideration, but with every criticism rests an opportunity to learn something positive for the organization or about the leader.


Many leaders are so fearful of conflict they attempt to satisfy all critics, even if they never intend to follow through or make changes because of the criticism. They say what the critic wants to hear. If there is no merit to criticism then don’t act like there is merit. Be kind, but not accommodating.

I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Awareness is half the battle. Identifying the wrong ways to respond to criticism and working to correct this in your leadership is part of growing as a leader.

In my next post I’ll share some right ways to respond to criticism.

What else would you add as a wrong way to respond to criticism?

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31 thoughts on “5 Wrong Ways to Respond to Criticism

  1. Pingback: 8020Info Inc.
  2. I think the #1 way people respond to criticism is with defense. When we get defensive we are putting up barriers that stop communication in its tracks.

  3. Great article Ron, also love the new website design.

    One of the reasons we had to let our last worship pastor go was because he couldn't take criticism. We would have a meeting after the weekend services and discuss what went right and what we could've done better. Anytime criticism was directed towards worship, instead of receiving it and addressing it, he would look for opportunities to point out what everyone else had done wrong that day.

    I would say one way to tell if someone has the potential to be a great leader is how well they handle criticism.

  4. One I have seen over the years, is trying to downplay it all. Everyone has that, all people do that. Making sure it sounds smaller than it is, not really in need of addressing.
    Twitter: bryankr

  5. I think another risk, or wrong way to receive criticism is to let it define you. If criticism is constructive, it isn't going to just be an insult to your whole identity. Yet, some people assume that if someone gives them constructive criticism, then they are a failure or a bad person. We need to keep it in perspective to get use from it.

    • That's so true. I know people who own the criticism even if it's far from truth. Thank you.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  6. You forgot number #6 – punching them in the face – certainly a wrong way to respond but unfortunately it is the approach seen in the media all the time

  7. Sometimes I see Christians ignore criticism/correction because the person who's giving it is not a believer. I see this at work a lot. Well, if you believed God for the job then he knew that person would be your manager. Any criticism/correction should be taken to the Lord.

    • Good point. I like your take on this. God spoke through a donkey. He can speak through a non-believer if He chooses to. Plus some things are common sense and it takes someone outside to see our flaws at times.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  8. Good adds. Just a thought, you have such good ones here, you could take my posts and post a companion to them on your blog…get double impact with your comments here and on your blog too. Keep them coming!
    Twitter: Ronedmondson

  9. I use to take every criticism as truth from God because I wanted to be humble and receivable. I soon found myself beat up with it all. Wounded, I have slowly learned that not ALL criticism is necessarily God lead. Some have an agenda.

  10. Ron, I think you nailed it. I guess punching the criticizer in the face would be a wrong response 🙂 It really takes maturity to respond to criticism well. Every time I heart it I need to process it slowly rather than react. My natural tendency is to blame the criticizer for not knowing what they're talking about.
    Twitter: dsantistevan

    • I love it! I laughed at this one. Actually, if some guy criticizes my wife…a punch may be in order. Meant to put that in the fine print!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson