You’re great. You’re amazing. You’re a genius. Your ideas are invaluable. Without you, this company would’ve folded years ago. If only we had 20 more people just like you on our staff.
Sorry, we’re not really talking about you. These are just some slightly exaggerated examples of compliments employees would love to hear. And while the praise can’t always be this flattering, giving people compliments—and creating an environment where performance recognition is encouraged—is critical to corporate morale and productivity. Regular compliments and recognition have been proven to be an important foundation on which successful businesses flourish.
For the most part, compliments are easy. Fun to give and fun to get. But just as important to the health of a business is handing out criticism. That’s hard. Research has shown business owners and managers consider the task of criticizing subordinates to be one of the most dreaded and stressful parts of being the boss.
This fear or reluctance to deliver constructive criticism can prove costly. If we don’t criticize negative performance or behavior when it starts, it’s likely to intensify or spread over time. By the time we do address the problem, we’re at the end of our rope and our employees can’t understand why. They might ask, "If this is such a big problem, why didn’t you tell me sooner?" Good question.
Regardless of how well our organization is functioning and how much we care about the people who work for us, constructive criticism will always be a necessary part of business.
Here are a few points to keep in mind:
- Take two steps back. We should always take time to get our facts straight and think about what we’re going to say—and how we’re going to say it—before making a criticism.
- Criticize in private, praise in public. Public criticism not only offends the recipient, but those who observe it. There’s a time and a place to make our constructive criticisms—but it’s never around other people.
- Make it constructive, not destructive. We should always try to include positive points about an employee’s performance when delivering criticism. If it’s all bad news, people will walk away discouraged and deflated.
- Criticize without comparing. We all have a tendency to compare employees with each other. But it should never be the foundation of a criticism.
- Talk about the future, not the past. What can we do to eliminate this problem and make things better? That should be the bottom-line question behind every criticism. Focusing on the past isn’t good for us or our audience.
Compliments are important. But criticism, no matter how hard it may be to deliver, is an equally important way to help people learn and improve.
As long as there are people in the workplace, praise and criticism will remain essential to the growth and success of business. And it is our job to make sure everyone gets their fair share. IBI