I have been criticized for my performance at work by my boss. He has told me some specific ways to change how I fulfill one of my tasks. Rationally, I know he is mostly right and the best way forward would be to admit (at least to me) I did not perform as good as I should have, implement the changes and move on.

However, emotionally, I feel attacked and that the consequences are way out of proportion. I know I'm being thin-skinned and that I'm taking criticism personally when I shouldn't. However, I cannot get over these emotions. I tried ignoring them, but they are getting in the way of my professional behavior and make me consider scenarios (telling my boss of, malicious compliance, or reducing effort to a minimum) and blame others for the situation. I know none of this is productive in any way and I don't want to go in that direction. I did not take the criticism as gracefully as I should have, nor did I implement the demanded changes as smoothly as I should have. I want to get off that road.

I also don't want to discuss the situation with my boss: While I think there are some valid points to be made (criticism was mostly out of the blue and the solution somewhat micro-managy) and my boss is usually open to discussion, I don't think the points are worth making, wouldn't make a difference, that I'm overreacting to them and that I probably would have a hard time containing the discussion.

How can I manage my unprofessional emotions when rationally I know what to do? I know the solutions boils down to not acting on them, but I need specific steps.

  • 3
    It is unclear whether your behavior is actually unprofessional from the description you gave. You had feelings that you think were unprofessional, and thoughts about actions you might do. What did actions did you actually take?
    – Joe
    Mar 26, 2021 at 17:28
  • Are these feelings getting in the way of you doing your job or living your life? There's nothing wrong, unprofessional, or abnormal about having feelings, but if they are negatively affecting your ability to function you may need to talk to a therapist about strategies for dealing with them. Not sure an internet forum can help.
    – Seth R
    Mar 26, 2021 at 17:41
  • @Joe My behavior was mostly okay. It's just that I'm struggling to keep it that way. Mar 26, 2021 at 17:46
  • 5
    This is not a workplace issue. This is a personal interaction and behaviour issue. Mar 26, 2021 at 18:35

3 Answers 3


You are already off to a good start: you have realized that your emotions are getting in the way and you are working on reeling them in and NOT let them impact your actual behavior. Good!

It's ok to have emotions, you are human. You can't easily change them, so don't fight them but acknowledge them and focus and what to DO rather than how you FEEL.

Focus on the future: what are you goals, what are your aspirations, what are the "hero" scenarios that you want to have in your future. Visualize them, write them down, play specific scenarios out inside your head. Imaging how it feel like to be in these scenarios.

Anytime you are tempted to do something unprofessional (or just do about anything), look at it through the lens of your desired future: What is the best thing I can do right now to get to my goal? What are my options and which one helps me getting to a great rewarding future the quickest?

So try to overwrite negative emotions with positive ones by envisioning your bright shiny future that is within your reach if you do what you already know to be the right thing.



Full disclosure, I am autistic, and RIDDLED with little quirks and idiosyncrasies which makes the workplace a minefield for me.

What I have learned over years is to take all criticism as constructive, and to reframe things from "you failed to do this" or "you should have done that" to:

Going forward, I will do this. Then build a plan on how to do just that.

Do your "malicious compliance" as an attack on your faults, make THEM the enemy rather than the person who pointed them out.

If your problem is lateness, plan to be at work 15, 20, 30 minutes early and reward yourself with some "me time" when you get there. Celebrate milestones. Turn this all into a positive thing, and take those emotions and harness them as fuel to go forward.

Make your first achievement to admit fault to yourself.

  • Good answer. Furthermore, when your boss said "You failed to do this", you can pretend like he really meant to nicely say "It would be much more beneficial to both you and the company/team if you try to do this new thing...". --- You all know the saying "When life gives you lemon, try to make lemonade" :-) Mar 26, 2021 at 20:14
  • 1
    @Job_September_2020 Exactly. Use everything you can to your advantage. Mar 26, 2021 at 20:17
  • @Job_September_2020. I had to laugh at this: it's such an American thing. If someone in Germany says "that's pretty good" it's high praise, in the US it means "it's a disaster". In the US the expectation is that anything that could be interpreted as slightly negative must be wrapped into 8 layers of sugar coating :-)
    – Hilmar
    Mar 26, 2021 at 23:25
  • @Hilmar the cultures are VERY different. Your assessment is a bit unfair, although being from a German background myself, I can see how it comes across that way. The thing is with American business, they'll smile while they stab you in the back. Anything less than enthusiastic praise means it probably IS a disaster. It is not uncommon to go into your annual review expecting praise and instead getting very low ratings. We don't have worker's councils over here either. Very different. Mar 26, 2021 at 23:33
  • @Old_Lamplighter: sorry, I wasn't judging, just making an attempt at cross-cultural humor. I've worked and lived in both countries for many years. US is way more indirect than Germany, but not nearly as indirect as China or Japan. Neither is right or wrong, they are just different
    – Hilmar
    Mar 28, 2021 at 12:44

Without knowing what your boss said and how, it’s hard to be specific. But in general the following applies:

Remember. It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you did. Everyone makes mistakes. That doesn’t make you a bad person or bad at your job, it just means you did something you shouldn’t have, and your boss is letting you know so you can do it better next time.

This is an opportunity to learn, improve, and become better at your job. It’s okay to be annoyed at yourself for making a mistake. Just channel than annoyance into wanting to improve, and use your boss’s advice to make that happen.

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