To be honest...Constructive criticism and why it’s so cool

By Amy Hutchinson

Business Analyst | Strategy and Operations (2015 Summer Student)

“To be honest, this just isn’t meeting the mark.”

Ideally at this point, the floor would have opened up and swallowed me whole. 

I had just spent hours finishing up a slide to send to my manager. When I took it into to her office for feedback, that’s what she told me.

“To be honest, this just isn’t meeting the mark.”

Ouch. But let’s be honest – it really wasn’t my best work. I had tried, but the content didn’t make sense and it wasn’t exactly visually appealing. Then she said some amazing words–

“Let’s fix it together”.

It’s a good thing the floor hadn’t swallowed me up, because after ten minutes spent talking through a new approach with my manager, I was able to put together some awesome content that was presented in our next meeting. Talk about a revelation! 

When you’re coming straight off campus as a co-op student or a new grad, you’re used to a number in red pen giving you feedback. “This just isn’t meeting the mark” sounds the same as “4/10” in red pen across the top of an assignment. Once you have that 4/10, it’s often game over. But in this situation “This just isn’t meeting the mark” means that this time, my work wasn’t where it needed to be, but with the constructive criticism that came next, I was able to deliver something I was proud of, and that met my manager’s needs.

There’s a change in my mindset surrounding negative feedback and constructive criticism. Coming from campus, it can be hard to understand why someone wants you to redo a task. I just finished it, and now you want me to go back and do it over? In school, you hand in an assignment and you never have to see it again. At work, you hand in a deliverable and you work with it for days, weeks, or months. That means you had better be the top of your game, and that means you should seek out as much constructive criticism as you can before you “hand it in”. 

This is a learning that I’m going to take back to the classroom with me after my co-op term. In the office, constructive criticism can come from managers, team members and coaches. In the classroom, it can come from classmates, professors, and teaching assistants. 

If ten minutes of constructive criticism can take my work from not hitting the mark to a successful presentation, then I’m all for it.

Amy joined Deloitte for a summer student role in 2015 as a Business Analyst with our Strategy and Operations practice. She is currently studying Mathematics at McMaster University.


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