How to Respond to a Critical Email From Your Boss


Constructive criticism in the workplace can give employees a new perspective on their job duties and set them up for success. But, when your boss chooses to point out your shortcomings in a critical manner, minus the constructiveness, it can leave you at a professional standstill. Don't allow your boss's negative perception of your work ethic to sit and stew. Reply to your boss in person or through email, explain your side or apologize and always maintain a respectful tone.

  • Calm yourself down to avoid bringing emotion into your rebuttal. Determine whether the criticism was rooted in facts or the result of a misunderstanding.

  • Decide -- based on the severity of the criticism -- whether it would be beneficial to explain your side of the story in person or through email. Schedule a meeting with your boss if an explanation is warranted on your end for a mishandling of job duties. Offer an apology face-to-face. Assure your boss that this mistake will not happen again. Develop a solution that will rectify the problem or prevent future ones from occurring.

  • Correct any misunderstandings immediately, such as if your boss sends you a message stating a particular project was not up to his standards -- but in actuality you had nothing to do with that project. Reply to your boss's email and list recent projects you have undertaken and that you are not associated with the project in question. Do not state in your reply that your boss "made a mistake" by naming you as the author of the project. It's important to create an email trail of this correction to prevent any future liability that could be falsely attributed to you.

  • Reply to your boss's email electronically if her critique of your job performance or completed projects are vague. Avoid a defensive tone in your response. Maintain professionalism by thanking her for reaching out to you. Tell her you strive to be an exemplary employee and would welcome a meeting at her earliest convenience to discuss possible solutions to her critiques. Follow up in person the next day if your reply goes unanswered. Gather evidence that supports your performance, such as positive reviews and emails of appreciation.

Tips & Warnings

  • Everyone receives criticism at some point in their life. Avoid beating yourself up or dwelling endlessly on the critique. Look at warranted criticism as a way to better yourself and learn to brush off criticism that has no facts to back it up.
  • Approaching your boss when you clearly are upset could jeopardize your employment, especially if you end up making inappropriate statements in the heat of the moment. Always confront your boss at times when he is calm and when you are calm.
  • Don't involve your coworkers. Anything you share with others about what you think about the boss's message could be miscommunicated to colleagues and end up getting back to the boss. Your boss may not appreciate his private message going public.

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