Genuine Praise and Helpful Criticism

Rene' Boer People

You can’t be a Great Boss if you shy away from giving feedback, both positive and negative.  When you see something, you must say something.  Failing to say something speaks volumes about what is important to you.

It’s probably no surprise that employees would prefer feedback to be positive.  But what may surprise you is that employees would rather have negative feedback than no feedback at all.  Despite this, many bosses confess that they’re not particularly good at giving genuine praise or helpful criticism.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Praise in public and criticize in private – don’t mix these up;
  2. Praise more than criticize – think of it as your checking account, maintain a positive balance;
  3. Praise “period” – never end praise with “but” or “however”;
  4. Criticize the bad behavior or poor results, not the person;
  5. Criticize to help someone improve not to destroy their confidence;
  6. Be timely with both praise and criticism;
  7. Make it real – give details about how the behavior or performance has helped or hurt the team;

Great Bosses give both genuine praise and helpful criticism. Looking at the illustration below, which quadrant describes you?

Quadrant 1 – “The Cheerleader” often praises people for their efforts even when goals and objectives aren’t met. They think that criticism demoralizes people while praise motivates them. They run from confrontation, not understanding that healthy conflict creates clarity. Their praise becomes tiresome because it’s disingenuous and unearned.  The “criticism vacuum” leads to mediocrity, poor morale and the blame game.

Quadrant 2 – “The Poor Boss” just doesn’t get it. He or she has low emotional capacity and lack of empathy for others. They have a “Just do your job – that’s what I pay you for” attitude.  The resulting “feedback vacuum” leaves people wondering how to do things and why they’re doing them.

Quadrant 3 – “The Taskmaster” is afraid that praise will lead to complacency and an expectation that the person will expect a reward … like a pay increase. The “praise vacuum” leaves people wondering if they’ll ever meet expectations because great results aren’t recognized and never seem to be good enough.

Quadrant 4 – “The Great Boss” understands how vitally important giving genuine praise and helpful criticism is to build a healthy organization and a culture of accountability.

I encourage you to give genuine praise and helpful criticism. So, when you see something, say something. And, make it memorable. Doing so is one of the Management Practices critical to be a Great Boss.