How to Accept Criticism Gracefully


As CPA Exam candidates, we may not all go toward the same career path. But one thing I think we can all agree on is that starting a new job is tough. And starting a new job that involves technical accounting skills, especially if you’re just applying them for the first time, can be tougher. In the accounting profession, it’s important to learn how to accept constructive feedback or criticism gracefully as you start in a new position or new company.

Whenever anyone begins practicing a new skill for the first time, mistakes happen.

They happen often. The learning curve can be long and arduous. And you can expect to get a lot of feedback from your team and higher ups who are trying to help you adjust. 

However, receiving constructive feedback from more experienced staff and seniors will quickly help you learn and grow. My firm takes feedback very seriously. Management guarantees new hires like me get feedback often to make sure we know what is going right and where improvement is needed.  It’s a very humbling process. While receiving constructive criticism can be difficult to hear sometimes, you will be a better employee for it. 

A study conducted by PsychTests regarding sensitivity to criticism found that people who became defensive about criticism are less happy with their job, have low performance ratings, and low self-esteem. 

By taking constructive criticism personally, you damage your confidence and attitude. If you are able to keep an open mind and push past the harsh outer shell of criticism to the lesson to be learned, you’ll hold a major key to success. 

But I know simply suggesting not to be defensive with constructive criticism can be easier said than done.

So Here are some steps that I found that are helpful for receiving constructive criticism like a pro:

  1. Stop your first reaction – remind yourself to stay calm and open
  2. Remember the benefit of getting feedback – think of the skills you’ll be improving
  3. Listen for understanding – be interested in improving, not defensive
  4. Say thank you – express appreciation and acknowledge the evaluator’s effort
  5. Ask questions to understand the feedback – process the feedback to get to the root of the areas to improve by asking for specific examples
  6. Request a time to follow up – think about your next steps and what exactly you’ll be working to improve 

In the words of Hilary Clinton, “it’s important to take criticism seriously, not personally.” Not only will you improve the job you’re doing, you’ll likely be happier doing it. 

–Shannon Neumeyer, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review 

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