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Criticism and bullying are two different things

Bullying is health-harming
Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behavior directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety. Bullying often involves a misuse or abuse of power where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves.

Criticism is evaluation
Criticism is an analysis, interpretation, examination or judgment. Obviously, it’s best presented as constructive criticism.

If you are criticized, you shouldn’t immediately label it bullying. It’s simply not so.

Criticism should help make your work better
Years ago I had a supervisor who did outrageously wonderful performance evaluations. She would pull out projects she thought were particularly well done. And then she’d slide, oh so civilly, into the criticism part.

I remember walking out of one performance review thinking, ‘I feel really good and she just told me my writing was pretty awful.’ She suggested I find a mentor to hone my writing. It was one of the best criticisms ever handed me. I knew where to find the mentor. He was a retired journalism professor who was a sharp, no-nonsense editor. I had a good relationship with him.

I took articles to his house and returned several days later to find pencil marks deleting lots of copy, notes scribbled all over the margins, things to follow up on. I was amazed you could delete so many words and improve the writing so much.

That was 16 years ago. At the time I was nearly 20 years past writing and editing courses in college. I had not held jobs that I needed to write like that. I was out of practice. I undoubtedly took the criticism more seriously as an adult than I had as a college student. My self-esteem and perhaps my job depended upon how much I could improve.

That criticism was a life lesson
Today I seek out ruthless editors who will mark through my copy, tell me to move paragraphs and ask questions. My writing is improved by critical review. I try to do the same for others, whether fellow writers or extension professionals.

Very recently
I told you in a notification that I received the writing for the Web gold award for one blog post in an international critique and evaluation. And that I wasn’t sure which post I’d entered. I didn’t remember because I didn’t select the post. I asked one of my favorite ruthless editors to critique my entry submission. She offered suggestions. She went further. She suggested I submit a different post than the one I’d selected. I took her advice. Part of my award must belong to Diane for her thoughtful criticism. The entry was Sept. 25, 2007 post: Do you prefer people who talk or people who listen?

It is not easy to accept criticism
Much depends upon the tone in which it is presented. Much depends upon your attitude. It is not bullying.


Thoughtful criticism takes time. If I ask for it, then I want it to be worth the time of both parties.

Through various networking activities I have found colleagues who I can trust to critically evaluate work. It's a challenge, but worth the time, to identify the right person or group to evaluate different projects based on their interests and abilities. I too feel fortunate to have those people helping me in my professional life. I try to remember to thank them every time we interact and offer like services in exchange.