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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development
  3. December 13, 2023

How to Respond to Constructive Criticism: 5 Email Templates

Take responsibility and action

woman writing an email responding to constructive criticism
Photo courtesy of Edmond Dantès

No one likes facing criticism. Even when it’s constructive criticism, we’ve all felt that wave of anxiety when someone expresses disappointment in us. 

The key to overcoming your fear of criticism is reframing your mindset. 

Usually, feedback is intended to improve relationships. Wouldn’t you rather have a close friend tell you that something minor you did (i.e. you showed up late to dinner, canceled plans last minute, or accidentally offended them) annoyed them rather than them bottling the issue up and resenting you for it? I certainly would. 

The same rules apply to work. It’s always in your best interest to work in an open, honest environment where everyone feels comfortable giving and receiving feedback. When you’re aware of your shortcomings and can work together with your colleagues and managers to create a plan for self-improvement, everyone is able to work together more seamlessly and foster a psychologically safe culture of accountability.

It’s inevitable that you’ll receive constructive criticism at some point in your career. When you do, you’ll want to be able to recognize it and respond in a polite, action-oriented manner. 

Read more: How to Give Constructive Criticism to Anyone in the Office

What constitutes constructive criticism?

Everyone makes mistakes. 

Constructive criticism is a learning opportunity, so try not to take it too personally. The person giving you feedback simply wants you, your team, and your organization to succeed. In order to achieve that goal, you need to be working to the best of your ability, and sometimes, others are able to point out your weaknesses where you might have a gap in understanding.

Often, whoever is giving you the feedback might sandwich the constructive criticism portion in between praise for what you did well to highlight your strengths and reinforce that you’re doing a good job overall.

Some examples of constructive criticism could sound like:

  • “I’m consistently impressed with your public speaking skills. However, your presentation today lacked sufficient data to support your key points. Adding more statistics or case studies could make it more convincing the next time around.”

  • “Your proposal is well-structured, but it would benefit from incorporating more industry-specific examples to strengthen its relevance to our clients.”

  • “I’m so glad you’re showcasing your creativity in problem-solving. However, providing a clearer rationale behind your innovative ideas would help gain buy-in from the team.”

  • “I appreciate your high level of expertise and quality work; but, on average you need twice as long as your colleagues to complete a job. Let’s talk about what you need from me so you can do the work in the same time as your colleagues.”

However, not all criticism is constructive. If you’re consistently being unfairly blamed or publicly called out and ridiculed, you might be experiencing bullying, verbal abuse, or discrimination. 

These behaviors are not constructive criticism:

  • Calling someone out for poor performance in front of their coworkers or boss

  • Blaming a coworker for something they didn’t do or weren’t entirely responsible for

  • Verbally trivializing, minimizing, arguing with, or dismissing someone’s work

  • Attributing criticism to someone’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

Here are some resources to help:

Read more: Your Toxic Workplace Checklist: 16 Signs the Culture Is Bad for Business

5 email templates for responding to constructive criticism

Whenever you’re dealing with feedback of any kind, it’s important to remain polite and professional. Remember, this person is most likely trying to help you realize and reach your full potential at work.

When responding to constructive criticism, it’s crucial to include three things in your message: gratitude for their feedback, how you plan to improve in the future, and an offer to discuss the feedback further.

Try not to be defensive and offer a drawn out explanation or excuse for why something went awry—take ownership and responsibility for your behavior or actions unless you feel the criticism is truly unfair or something out of your control came up like a family emergency. 

Here are five email templates that can also easily be adapted to serve as messages responding to constructive criticism over Slack.

1. Responding to constructive criticism about a skill you need to improve on

Hi (name),

Thank you for your message. While I’ve been pleased with many of my accomplishments this past year, I also recognize that there’s always room for growth. 

I agree that I need to work on my time management. More than once, I allowed my workload to get the best of me, which meant I didn’t provide the experience for my clients. I’ve already started using several time management strategies and applications that have helped me better stay on top of my work. In the future, I won’t be afraid to ask for help when it’s needed.

Thanks again for your feedback—I always value your insight.


(Your name)

2. Responding to constructive criticism from a peer

Hi (name),

Thank you for your message. I really appreciate you taking the time to offer valuable feedback. 

I've carefully considered the points you raised, and I want to sincerely apologize for the miscommunication regarding our joint client project. I now have a clear perspective on how I can enhance my project management skills.

Your suggestions for setting more specific deadlines and improving task prioritization has provided me with actionable steps for improvement. Please feel free to share any additional thoughts or advice in the future—I’m always grateful for the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally.


(Your name)

3. Responding to constructive criticism after you made a mistake

Hi (name),

I want to address the recent deadline I missed for the project deliverable and express my sincere gratitude for the constructive feedback you provided.

I take full responsibility for not meeting the project deadline. Despite my efforts to get the report to you on time, I did not allocate my time correctly. Your insights into the importance of better time management and setting realistic deadlines have given me a clear understanding of how to prevent this type of situation from occurring again in the future.

Thank you for your understanding and for your ongoing support. I am dedicated to contributing my best work to the team moving forward. Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.


(Your name)

4. Responding to constructive criticism from your boss

Hi (name),

I want to express my sincere gratitude for the constructive feedback you provided regarding my recent presentation. Your suggestions to enhance the structure and incorporate more visual aids are incredibly valuable.

I plan to reorganize the presentation to follow a clearer, more engaging structure and integrate relevant infographics, graphs, and images to make the presentation more visually engaging. I'll also allocate additional time for practice sessions to refine my delivery and pacing.

Thanks again for your input. I'm enthusiastic about implementing these improvements to deliver more impactful and engaging presentations in the future.


(Your name)

5. Responding to unfair or unwarranted criticism 

Hi (name),

Thank you for the feedback—I value constructive criticism and am always open to improving my performance. However, regarding the feedback on the project timeline extension, I believe there is a misunderstanding.

The circumstances leading to the extension were primarily due to unforeseen external supply chain disruptions. Despite our team’s efforts to mitigate these challenges, they significantly impacted our ability to adhere to the initial timeline.

I’m happy to jump on a call to clarify this further. I think a quick discussion would be beneficial to providing a comprehensive understanding of the situation for both of us. Let me know if you have some time this week.

Thank you for your time and understanding. I look forward to finding a resolution that aligns with our project goals.


(Your name)

Read more: Know Thyself: How to Write a Constructive Self-Evaluation

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