Karren Brady gives career advice on how to not take criticism personally and when's the right time to retire

APPRENTICE star and vice-chairperson of West Ham FC Karren Brady answers all your careers questions.

Today she helps a woman who finds it hard to not take criticism and confrontation personally at her workplace.

Q) I have just started a new job, which I’m really excited about.

I’m a hard worker, but I take criticism and confrontation personally and find it hard to switch off from work, worrying about things to the point that I can’t connect with my family.

I don’t want this to hold me back, so can you suggest any strategies I can try?

Wendy, via email

A) It’s not unusual to react badly to either criticism or confrontation, but it is a problem when you dwell on it so much it affects your quality of life. Taking things so personally can come from a fear that someone is threatening your job or your livelihood, which so often isn’t the case.

So build up your self-confidence. Remind yourself why you got this great new job in the first place and how good you are at what you do. When you’re confronted with criticism, be rational.

Always take it seriously, but not personally. If you don’t know what’s wrong with your work, you won’t know how to fix it, so see feedback as a way you can improve your performance. Remember, just because you accept criticism it doesn’t mean you have to apologise for a mistake repeatedly.

Having said all that, if the criticism is unfair or needs explanation, you need to question it and follow things up. This is not about escalating tensions, but simply to make sure it’s not a groundless attack on you by someone with an axe to grind. Finally, try focusing on the positives instead of the criticism.

Spending too much time looking at negatives diverts energy you could be investing into your work. A career lasts a lifetime and you will come across all sorts of people, including those who thrive on confrontation, and they won’t be the first or last people to criticise you. So give their feedback its due consideration – then move on!

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Q) I’m 66 and work two days a week in a shop. I love feeling like I have a purpose and enjoy chatting to customers, but I do find it tiring.

My husband retired a few years ago, however I’m worried about how I will cope with a slower pace of life after being so busy working all my life.

How do I know when the right time to retire is?

Vic, via email

A) They say that nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else. So if you would rather be doing something else than going to work… it’s time to retire!

But before you make a decision, ask yourself three key questions about your life after retiring: What do I want to do? Where do I want to do it? Who do I want to do it with?

If you have answers to those questions, then you know what your plan is for when you are no longer working.

If you don’t have a plan, make one – it will give you focus and help you realise the possibilities for you when you are free to do what you want with your time.

And don’t worry about getting tired – whatever your age, everyone feels exhausted sometimes, because working is hard!

Maybe take as much time off as paid holiday allows in one go so you can see how you feel and what you do with your days.

This will help you decide if you’ll miss work too much or not!

Got a question?

DO you have careers question you want Karren to answer? 

Email [email protected]

  • Karren cannot answer emails personally. Content is intended as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice.

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