The office bully is making you less productive—jerk! Canadian researchers found that competitive people performed worse on tasks after receiving unproductive, insulting critiques.

“Competitive people link their identify and self-worth to winning and being better than others. So when their performance is criticized, it’s both an insult and an identity threat,” says lead study author Jana Raver, Ph.D., professor at Queen’s University in Canada.

And that distracts you. “People often think about the identity threat and how to repair their reputation, rather than the task at hand,” says Raver. People who aren’t competitive are better able to focus on the message under the insult in order to succeed, she explains.

Your move: “Instead of taking it personally, try to find the constructive criticism.” This isn’t always easy. First, walk away so you’re not angry. Once you’re composed, ask for the constructive feedback. Say, “I found the comment vague, but clearly there are areas where I can improve. Do you have any specific suggestions that I can remember for next time?”

And schedule a weekly boss-employee meeting—whether you’re the man in charge or the underling. “Unhelpful criticism usually happens when someone blows up after a lot of little mistakes,” she says. “But if you have weekly check-ins, feedback becomes normal, frequent, and helpful.”