Ask ‘What’ Instead Of ‘Why’ When The Boss Criticises

Ask ‘What’ Instead Of ‘Why’ When The Boss Criticises

Nobody enjoys getting chewed out by the boss, but it happens to the best of us. Starting the discussion with “what” helps you focus on constructive feedback.

Photo by a2gemma

The Wall Street Journal interviewed experts on the best ways to accept criticism in the workplace. One expert suggests focusing on the specifics of the problem by choosing your first words carefully:

“What” questions, such as “What evidence did you see?” tend to draw out more helpful information, says productivity-training consultant Garrett Miller. Questions that begin with “why,” such as, “Why are you saying that?” breed resentment and bog down the conversation, says Mr. Miller, chief executive of CoTria, Tranquility, N.J.

When both of you focus on the problems instead of emotions, you’ll be able to make the changes requested without feeling attacked or resentful.

Check out the link’s tips for accepting negative feedback in a positive way.

‘It’s Not My Fault!’ A Better Response to Criticism at Work [Wall Street Journal]


  • I reckon it comes across like you’re being a smart ass. Unless the manager in question is being a baseless prick, a better solution is to say nothing, improve your performance based on the feedback recieved and move on.

    • It’s aimed at when you have no idea what you did, to make the boss criticise you. if you don’t know, then you can’t improve your performance.

      • Fair enough, it sounds like bad criticism in that case though, as a teacher there’s nothing less helpful than undirected criticism

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