Criticism can be positive; criticism does not need to be negative as many people seem to believe. I had a view of the negative when I went out for coffee this morning at the local coffee shop in my town. One of the young counter people had placed an order for a breakfast sandwich but some mistake was made in the process and another sandwich had to be made. The counter manager berated the counter person about the mistake in loud, angry tones and everyone in the coffee shop heard it. The manager’s behavior set off a number of issues in my mind:
– berating the employee in front of the person who had ordered the breakfast sandwich made the experience unpleasant for the customer
– the angry tones reverberated throughout the shop and based on the expressions I noticed of those around me it made all of us uncomfortable
– the criticism of the employee in front of other employees and customers was humiliating to the employee and probably unpleasant for the other 3 employees
– the manager certainly did not behave as a manager; in my terms he behaved as a boss only…not a manager
– I’m not sure where the mistake occurred in the process but I do know where the blame was placed – on the lowest ranking person

Criticism does not have to dealt with a whip. But many so called managers believe criticism is a negative and therefore deliver it as a negative and thus use a whip to deliver it. The reactions by the employee can be numerous, but one thing is certain: the stress level of the employee has been increased. In an earlier blog I pointed out that bosses create enormous stress on employees and thus many employees leave the company to relieve that stress. This was a good indication of the stress that can occur on the job. No one wants to be yelled at, and certainly no one wants to be yelled at in front of others.

Criticism can be and should be both helpful and constructive. It should be feedback that something needs to be improved or addressed. A good manager, as I point out in my book “Theory You” will work to create an environment of trust in which people seek feedback from them. It takes commitment and hard work to establish trust as a manager but it is well worth the effort. A manager who is able to create that trust will develop better performers, better teams and better results for the company including the local coffee shop.

I love this quote from Noel Coward: “I love criticism just so long as it is unqualified praise”. Criticism delivered in the right manner with the right intent can be taken by the employee as a form of praise. It indicates to the employee that you care about them and want them to be successful at their job.

This quote from Mr. Coward can be useful when preparing employee evaluations. Employees need managers to be honest with them if they are to grow and improve. Constructive criticism gives the employee the chance to address his or her weaknesses and improve or eliminate them. Done properly constructive criticism can help an employee convert a weakness into a strength. Thus, criticism can be positive.

I hope the next manager of the coffee shop employee who was yelled at this morning gives him constructive criticism in private. That manager should then have a dedicated and loyal employee.