Should You Praise or Criticize?

February 19th, 2016

There are two approaches you can take to getting the most out of your employees: You can criticize work that needs improvement, or you can praise work that was done well. Actually, managing effectively requires both.

Avoid Unconstructive Criticism

Negative feedback can’t always be avoided, and criticism has value when it’s done constructively. This means placing the criticism in context and making sure an action is being criticized, not the person. Constructive criticism should be specific and related to a particular situation. There should be suggestions on how to improve, but you should collaborate with the employee to come up with a plan.

If done well, constructive criticism will leave an employee feeling like you’ve partnered with them to help them improve, and they’ll see the value of the improvements to the business and to themselves.

The Benefit of Praise

Offering praise makes employees feel good and boosts morale and self-esteem, which in turn boosts motivation and commitment to their work. Public recognition of an employee’s good work makes a clear statement about the employee’s value to the organization.

Using praise effectively doesn’t mean handing out trophies just for showing up at the office every day. Praise can even be used as part of coping with negative behaviors; you can use a “positive reprimand” where you offer examples of how the current behavior doesn’t match up to the employee’s normal good behavior. (If the employee hasn’t had any good behaviors or results to point to, there needs to be a specific improvement plan or a termination).

Determine Your Goal When Deciding Your Approach

To decide whether to take the positive or negative approach in giving feedback, think about what you hope to accomplish. Negative feedback can change behavior, but it doesn’t motivate or inspire. Positive feedback and praise motivates employees to put forth their best efforts. In the long run, that may have the most value to your organization.

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