How Do You Handle Anonymous Criticism?

Do you ignore anonymous criticism or do you respond to it? (geralt /

I'm curious what you do, as a leader, with anonymous criticism.

I never really had an official policy of how I handle anonymous criticism, but I often felt I should establish one.

I realize that growth in any organization and just being in a position of leadership welcomes critics. The larger the organizations I led grew, the more criticism I received. That's natural. A lot of them were unsigned critiques.

Throughout my career, I've heard people debate what they do when they receive unsigned criticism.

Let me be honest, I don't appreciate critics who won't sign their name, but since it's part of leadership, here's how I usually react:

  • I listen to it (read the letter, email or comment) and if there is a forum to respond, such as with a blog post, I sometimes do. I try to still respond in love—even though I don't feel like doing so at times.
  • I try not to figure out who the anonymous commenter is. I have found it is never helpful when I do and often causes me to hold unnecessary grudges.
  • I don't give it as much weight to the criticism as when I can attach a real person to the criticism. If you want my full attention, sign your name.
  • I try to figure out if there's a reason someone felt the need to be anonymous. Have I controlled the situation too much? Have I become unapproachable? Do I stink? (It's never bad to consider hard questions about myself.)
  • I dismiss it quicker if I don't feel it's valid. Sorry, but Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous, it's true. (I'm less likely to dismiss criticism quickly if there's a real person attached.)
  • I try not to be the anonymous critic. If I don't like to receive it, why dish it out to others?

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I don't think I have all the right answers. This is the just what has worked for me in leadership.

So I'm curious, how do you respond to anonymous criticism as a leader?

  • Do you read it?
  • Do you ignore it?
  • Do you respond to it?
  • Do you take it personally?
  • And what should I do differently than what I currently do?

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years' business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

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