6 Tips to Deal with a Manager Who is Constantly Criticising You

Manager criticising an employee

I recently held a conflict resolution workshop for a large retail organisation. One of the participants asked to talk to me privately during the break. She told me that she was finding coming to work very stressful because of her manager. This person was only six months into the role but was highly critical of her.

Anytime she would say something in a team meeting, the manager would roll their eyes, talk over her, and ask for “better suggestions”. She was never given positive feedback or a thank you for any job she did. The participant said she loved the organisation and her colleagues, but her morale was low, and she was thinking of resigning. She asked me for advice on dealing with the situation. 

This type of scenario involves recognising the need to have a difficult conversation. If the issue was a one-off, or it was clear that the manager was going through a temporary crisis, for example, a conversation wouldn’t be necessary. 

However, it was clear this was regular behaviour that was making the participant feel uncomfortable and disrespected so a conversation, is the first step in getting that behaviour to stop. Communication is essential in trying to resolve conflicts in your workplace

6 tips on how to approach a difficult conversation

  • Prepare 
  • Do not have this conversation without preparing first, it’s all about preparation for approaching conflict. Take time to think about the objectives of the conversation. Have all the instances of issues documented and with you to refer to. Book a time in their diary and a room (if face-to-face) so it is recognised as a formal meeting. Taking a casual approach to this kind of conversation can appear to trivialize the issue.


    State the problem and give specific examples and dates.

Focus on talking about the issue. Don’t make it personal. 

Begin sentences with ‘I’ instead of ‘you’. For example, “I was upset when you said at the meeting that I didn’t know what I was talking about”. 

Be solutions-oriented: For example, “I want to let you know how I see it and hear from you too, then let’s see where we can go from there”. 

  • Listen and question 

Once you’ve stated the problem, ask your manager to share their perspective. Again, focus on listening more and talking less. You are trying to get inside their head and understand what makes them tick.  Being aware of body language is crucial here. Look for clues in their non-verbal language. 

  • Look for solutions 

You want them to stop being so critical. Make suggestions about ways to move forward and resolve the situation. Phrase your suggestions by saying: 

  • “I think…”, 
  • “I’d prefer…” or 
  • “I wonder whether…”

These work better than demands like: “I want…” or “I have decided”. Ask your manager to make suggestions for an outcome as well. The answer is to find mutually beneficial solutions for both parties which will aid resolution more effectively. Both parties must share their perspectives in a calm, practical way while ensuring that the dialogue does not veer into personal attacks. 

  • State the problem and give specific examples and dates
    Please include the word personal attack under the above subtopic.


    Keep notes 

Keep notes of the conversation. Document any agreement and give a copy to the manager where appropriate. 

  • Follow up 

Ask your manager directly if they are available for a regular check-in. This will hopefully keep their behaviour in line. 

What if it doesn’t work?

If a few honest conversations with your manager don’t change their behaviour towards you, then there are other steps you can take.

  1. Ask a few trusted colleagues if they notice the manager is critical of you or if they’ve experienced it themselves.  
  2. Look into your HR policies; an escalation process should be available to you.
  3. Consider lodging a formal complaint. 
  4. Your last resort should be looking for another role internally or at a new organisation.

No-one should feel constantly criticised at work. Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected. Having a difficult conversation is a hard step to take, but it can stop bad behaviour in its tracks and allow you to continue enjoying your workplace.