Dealing with critics at work

Source: McLeod & more

When you start your first work email with ‘Goof morning…’ you know it’s going to be one of those days. But it takes a conscious effort to have the right attitude. You may find yourself working at an establishment where some colleagues try to put you down, try to set you up to fail or criticize your work. You have a choice to let them defeat you or your can decide not to let them invade your positive mindset. But how do you do that?

I’ll tell you one thing – it’s not easy. You could try to ignore them. But that’s difficult if you have to work closely with them. While I’m a believer of choosing my battles, I also encourage people to be prepared with appropriate responses to criticism. You see, keeping quiet is not a solution because it welcomes further criticism. Aggressive retort could also have bigger consequences that may result in intervention by your human resources department. You want to exhibit the right attitude not the fight attitude. There are responses that are well seasoned and would let the critics reevaluate their tactics.

You want to exhibit the right attitude not the fight attitude.

Your responses should never be personal or emotional. Keep it professional and relevant to the job. If the criticism you receive is not based on your job but your character, take a step back to reflect. Get the opinion of a trusted colleague or have a one-to-one with your line manager. If you need an attitude change then it’s better you know early enough. If your critics have overstepped their boundaries then by all means get your line manager involved and he/she may decide to take it up with the critcs’ line managers.

Another good approach is to let your work speak for itself. I like to document my activities so that it serves as an easy reference point. You never know when that work will come to your defence and vindicate you. Remember that no man is an island. Always seek opinions of others. Surround yourself with positive people both inside and outside your workplace. Try to emulate the qualities of positive people you see day-to-day. They attract good things. You can be like them too. Carrying old baggage or a chip on your shoulder is not a good way to start a new day that comes with opportunities.

I mentioned earlier that not letting people invade your positive mindset isn’t easy (if only we had a delete button to handle them, right? Ok maybe just a backspace button then). But if we make that choice to have the right attitude, a positive one, then that’s half the button…I mean battle won. I personally ask God to guide my steps and fight my battles for me. With a habit of meditation and prayer you would gradually get the divine direction you need to face life’s critics and challenges.

It won’t all happen overnight. It takes time but the first step takes seconds – make that choice. And so what if the first email you start the following day with goes ‘God morning…’ – at least this time you’re off on the right track ?

The White-Collar Nigerian Wears T.M. Lewin

He wakes up around 4.30am and eventually drags himself out of bed by 5am (after engaging the 5-minute snooze button six times, of course). He does this from Monday to Friday; not because he wants to but because he knows if he doesn’t he’ll risk reporting to the office after 7.30am, by which time his line supervisor would issue him a well deserved query. He does a fast clean – no literally, FAST as in Face, Armpits, Scalp and Teeth. It’s arguably ineffective but fools all his colleagues ,whom may actually be birds of the same feather. He throws on his T.M. Lewin shirt – the shirt that makes a bold statement in the business world, the shirt that is so often used to impress at that desperately awaited job interview, the shirt that shouts to the world, ‘I care about how I look and I know I look damn good. Don’t cha wish your T.M was hot like mine?’ But after all this he complements this pristine shirt badly with his overworked suit before dashing out to hustle for sardine space in an overloaded public bus.

Nasal carbon dioxide exchange is on the high especially on those rainy days where you can’t open the windows too much. The sweat is no match for his Brut antiperspirant but his T.M Lewin collar gets it, and so does the full length of his arm sleeve rubbing against the perspiring brute aka bus conductor. He gets off at the usual bus stop and walks down to his office 10 minutes away. His T.M Lewin isn’t looking as sharp as when you first put it on. The starch-effect is fast fading and as he speeds up the stairs and arrives at his desk with one more accessory than the neck tie and cuff links he left home with – sweat beads. He makes it just in time for his weekly review meeting which is no different from the Spanish inquisition.

Alas, T.M. Lewin can’t impress his boss if his sales figures can’t. In fact, it becomes a source of ridicule; how he can look so good and yet have his figures look so bad. He returns to work after the meeting…dejected and demoralized…he goes to the restroom to have a private moment to reflect. He’s arrested in his tracks as he’s greeted by Mr. T.M Lewin staring right back at him in the mirror. His momentary admiration borders on narcissism but he suddenly leaks a little smile, adjusts his lopsided necktie and tells himself, ‘One day I will rise…I will break away and do my own thing…The world hasn’t seen the best of me…I’m the man’. He rolls up his sleeves then leaves the restroom. He walks back to his table with his head held high with an air of confidence…in his sparkling white (but slightly wrinkled) custom-fitted T.M. Lewin. He looks good so he feels good. He is ready to face the day’s challenges and slave put in some overtime to get back into his master’s good book where the latter was once impressed by the T.M. Lewin look…

5 Unoffending Ways to address your Boss at the Office


If you’re working in an office and there is a clear policy on how staff are meant to address each other, then you’re in the clear – as far as your team mates are concerned. But this doesn’t always hold true when dealing with some supervisors, bosses or any staff that is above your level or grade. Whether you like it or not Office Politics exists and sometimes needs to be understood in order to avoid pitfalls that could ultimately leave you in the bad books of your superiors.

I have been at the receiving end of criticism for calling some bosses by their first name while I have equally received criticism for not referring to bosses by their first name. In a place like Nigeria where culture tends to override bureaucracy I therefore felt it necessary to list ways you can refer to both direct and indirect bosses (by email or speech) without annoying them:

5 Unoffending Ways to Address Boss

I would be very careful with #4 because if your boss’s name is Brian O’Donnell then you might not be getting away with calling him or her B.O, likewise Freda Upton, Ben Johnson and Peter Pledge. I particularly like #5 which gives you the peace of mind that you are addressing your boss just the way he or she wants.

How laptop bags can start fights


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I am about to illustrate just how you can get into trouble simply by trying to mind your own business: You’ve just gotten off the elevator on your floor where you work. As you make your way to your office … Continue reading

G is for Grammar


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Grammar /ˈgramər/ a : the study of the classes of words, their inflections, and their functions and relations in the sentence ( b : The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences (the free Whilst working in an office, I’ve come to … Continue reading

Don’t shoot the messenger (but is it ok to slap him?)

Two days ago one of the team members in my office received some bad news from his mother. She told him over the phone that his junior sister passed away in hospital after some complications. He was devastated. He left the office soon after to meet his family members and to start making burial arrangements.

My supervisor was out of the office at the time so when she came back she asked after the bereaved team member. I stupidly went close to her and said in a gentle voice that he received news that his sister was dead – that was when my supervisor sent my head swinging 45 degrees left with an unexpected hot slap. The following conversation ensued:

Me: “Why did you slap me?”

Boss: “Tell me it’s a lie”

Me: “It’s true…but you slapped me”

Boss: “Sorry, I don’t know…er…I wasn’t expecting that kind of news”

In my head: The next time I’m passing on shocking news to my boss I’ll do so from about 50 feet away or better yet I’ll send a text.

Anyway, the swelling has gone down now.

Take THAT, messenger!


~In loving memory of Chioma O. ~


Table for two, please!

Yesterday I had lunch with an unexpected guest. Half an hour earlier I was slaving away for my boss as usual when I suddenly heard my stomach grumbling. I decided to call the office canteen on the internal phone line and place my order. I even insisted that the food should be warmed up and reserved for me. I was told that everything would be done as requested. Fifteen minutes later I went downstairs to the canteen to check if my food was ready. It was covered, warm and ready to be served so I went over to one of the vacant tables that wasn’t directly in front of the head-numbing air conditioner. I bumped into a junior colleague whom had just finished eating lunch and was on his way out. As he was still chewing what seemed to be a stubborn piece of goat meat, I asked him how his lunch was. He gave me a ‘thumbs up’, probably because he didn’t want to respond with his mouth full.

With that sign of approval I was really looking forward to my meal. Apparently he had the same thing I was about to have – Eba and Ewedu with stew (Pounded Cassava with a watery vegetable soup topped with a peppery tomato gravy). Most of my colleagues had already had their lunch earlier so I was sitting at a table all by myself…at first. I attacked the first wrap of Eba and had gulped down half of the Ewedu soup, which I must say was deeeeeeelicious. The best thing about Ewedu soup is that it is so plain and thin that you wouldn’t expect to see anything other than liquified green leaves with no extras. But as I poked my fork into the bowl of soup again I pulled out my guest whom I had been dining with all this while. It was a baby roach.

Well I say it was a ‘baby roach‘ but this 1-inch, 6 legged, lifeless insect was more like a teenager – any bigger and it would have been a ‘cockroach‘ complete with wings! I immediately lost my appetite. I dropped the roach and my side plate and called the canteen attendants. I would love to say that I took advantage of this classic ‘Waiter, Waiter, what is this roach doing in my soup?’ moment and then I got the response ‘Looks to me like the breaststroke, sir!’…but sadly, that wasn’t what happened. The canteen attendant was shocked. I left the food in disgust and went back upstairs to continue punching (rather aggressively) on my keyboard. Some minutes later the chief chef came up to me and the old lady began to beg for my forgiveness. If ‘forgiveness’ meant saying ‘apology accepted’ then that was alright. But if it meant that I was to continue patronizing her cuisine then she had another thing coming!If I wanted roach soup for lunch then I guess things would have worked out perfectly. She stood by my side for about 5 minutes begging but I just wanted to get on with my work without her encroaching my territory.

The fact that I have a phobia for cockroaches, also known as Katsaridaphobia (, doesn’t make matters any better. I can recall an article I wrote in 2009 on the same issue where I made this perfectly clear.  In the end, the chef wanted to give me a free drink as some kind of peace offering.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s a nice lady but I didn’t like her approach. Was a can of malt really going to make a difference?  I think a bottle of Dettol would have been more appropriate, don’t you think?

How many cockroaches can you see?

Entry #5 – Jokes at the office

A colleague of mine got me in stitches yesterday when she narrated an incident that took place at her church. Her aunty had been nodding during the sermon…I beg your pardon…nodding off to sleep during the sermon, when the preacher decided to switch the topic. He asked the congregation that if they knew they had been involved in witchcraft, charms or an occult then they should ‘STAND UP’ for prayer. Unfortunately my colleague’s innocent aunty suddenly snapped out of her slumber, hoping she would not be caught out for not rising to her feet – Problem was…she was the ONLY ONE on her feet and she didn’t even know why she was standing up, nor did she understand why she got the most shocking looks from members of the congregation, especially her niece and kids with her!

Apparently she still regrets the events of that Sunday service – she feels compelled to keep explaining to people at her church that she is not a witch 😀