During this week, I read some tweets on personal criticism, Hilary Clinton, her years in politics and how she takes the criticism directed towards her. She quoted Eleanor Roosevelt's advice "Take criticism personal but not seriously, and grow a skin as thick as a rhinoceros."
So while at a networking event for women innovators, I was curious as to what women who have become leaders in the field of business thought and managed. I took the opportunity to ask what their suggestions would be on handling personal criticism, especially within the social media context.
A well-known business women didn't get my question "simply block them on Twitter". In my mind I thought she didn't get how twitter works. (Her social media assistant tweeting away on her behalf). People tweet your messages to their followers, they in turn retweet those tweets, and it keeps going within their clicks. But I have to give it to Julie Meyer's reply "negative people ruining your buzz? Eliminate them from your life online and offline". Julie Meyer is founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital.
The first thing you need to do is determine whether or not the person delivering the criticism is important to you? Do you value their opinion? Criticism is useful information about how someone else perceives you. Many occasions at a job interview I have been asked this question? How do you deal with criticism from a work colleague? This is my answer.
I was excited about a new role in a national organisation. The position had just been created and I was going to be working with team of existing staff, and was welcomed by everyone except for one person, Sara. What I didn't know and I learned later was that she wanted the role and was angry that she didn't get it. During my first week on the job, Sara was aggressive. I was constantly fending off little personal attacks from her. She kept asking me how I wanted to oversee the projects, what processes I wanted to put in place, how she should interact with me about her projects. Looking back, I realised these were all questions designed to make me look unprepared and incompetent. And I was too honest to say I didn't know yet.
Sara started sending me around 10-20 emails with return receipt before 9:30am. When I hadn't responded by 11:00am, she would start emailing to ask if I had seen her emails. She was constantly badgering me. I actually considered quitting. I didn't feel like I had any allies and wasn't sure this was the job I wanted.
After six weeks of this harassment, I decided this was enough, at the staff meeting I stood up to Sara. She kept asking me questions over and over and I reacted with that's enough! I spoke loudly and told Sara in front of everyone that I was fed up of so many unnecessary questions. "Can you please stop"? Sara did not say another word and sat back in her chair.
I was not sure how my colleagues would react towards my confrontation. Later back in the office, my colleagues came around to my desk to thank me for standing up to Sara. Once she saw that I wasn't willing to take her harassment and criticism of everything I did, she stood down. It was an awful experience I will never forget.
You always have the choice to accept it or reject it.