Being Judged and Criticised Unfairly at Work


The thing is many of us have been in positions where people come to all kinds of conclusions about us without really knowing us.  A post that resonated with me over the weekend on Facebook goes thus; “If you’re skinny, you’re on drugs. If you’re fat, you need to lose weight.  If you get dressed up, you’re conceited. If you dressed down, you’ve let yourself go. If you speak your mind, you’re rude. If you do not say anything, you’re snobbish. If you are sociable, you’re a party animal.  If you stay to yourself, you’re detached”. It seems you can never win with people. You can’t do anything without being criticized. We live in a society where people can’t seem to survive if they’re not judging the next person.

Over the weekend, I asked somebody about me. That some lady said, “people were talking about me and they said I was arrogant.  So, what is your opinion about this and what do you think I need to do about it?” Her response was why the post on Facebook was like God sent to me.  Her response was, “you do not talk to everybody and you tend to keep to yourself.” I then told her but, “I say hello to everybody when I see them and make it a duty to get up to greet them each morning”.  She said, “But you do not talk to them all of the time”. I was dumbfounded, because these are people who never say hello to you first. You always have to get up to greet them. I have wondered why they leave the first hello to me on occasion but have shrugged it off that it did not matter who said the first hello and I have tried to make a conscious effort to do so all the time.

The above scenario happens a lot in the workplace.  I remember a young colleague of mine telling me, she got feedback on her review from the collegiate that a senior female manager felt she was arrogant and was it because she had highlights in her hair that she thought she should feel full of herself and because of this comment, she was marked down.  My young colleague was shocked, as she had never really spoken to this lady, because she did not work for her. All she did was each time she met her, she made a conscious effort to say “good morning, afternoon, or evening”. She had no clue where this criticism or hate comment was coming from and why she should be pegged down as it had no bearing on her work or output.

I have also had colleagues who have told me, they’d had managers who had challenges with the manner they dressed when they go for meetings.  These women or men (their superiors) are so challenged that they find a way to put them down because they feel their subordinates have over-shadowed them and they must then find unfounded reasons to either put down their dressing, person or work to make themselves feel good.

How about doing your work so well that it then becomes a source of judgment and criticism?  I suffered from this. I did my work so well that some of the people I felt should have been happy with me were actually unhappy with me.  When I read “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene, I then realized why I was suffering from this form of judgment and criticism from those I felt should have supported me. Law 1 says, “Never outshine the master.  Make your masters appear more brilliant than you and you will attain the heights of power. When it comes to power, outshining the master is perhaps the worst mistake of all. Never take your position for granted and never let any favours you receive go to your head.” I learnt this very late in my career.

While I agree with agree with Robert Greene above, and Aristotle, who said “to avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” This will not always be possible as we must be true to ourselves and do and become who we have purposed to be.  However, we must bear in mind that as we work towards achieving that purpose, we are bound to come across people who dislike us, our decision and who sometimes openly expresses how unhappy they feel about it, the majority of these expressions will be covert.

Some research, I am currently working on to turn people who judge, criticize us unfairly or are haters to positive occurrences, is to do the following:

According to Steve Bloom who said, “Turn Your Critics into Friends.  He went on to say that “most people think attitude determines behavior, but it’s actually the other way around. Our behavior determines attitude. Clashing with haters about their attitude head-on will probably just bring on more hate. However, if you change their behavior, you’ll find that the person who was once a critic is now a friend.

To quote Benjamin Franklin: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

He also said, “Take Criticism like a Pro”.  The trouble with criticism is in how our brains process it, putting a lot more focus and attention on negativity. According to a study, one negative comment carries the same weight in our minds as five positive ones. “The problems we often have in handling criticism constructively lie in dealing with our feelings about being criticized. If we could handle those immediate negative emotions, we could respond constructively to the criticism.”

I will conclude with Angela Lois who said, “Someone’s criticisms and judgments aren’t the problem. Believing them is the problem.” Don’t believe them, believe in yourself and dissect the criticism and judgments in order to learn from them.