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How to Effectively Compliment or Criticize an Employee's Work

Compliments and criticism are unavoidable in the workplace. Both cases point the way toward increased business success, so, from a managerial point of view, they are important tools for making your small business work.

Complimenting employees

Keeping your employees happy doesn't always have to cost you more money. Simply complimenting an employee when he or she does exceptional work can go a long way toward an employee's job satisfaction. Make sure, however, that youur compliments mean something; give compliments only when employees deserve them for a job well done. Think of them as little gifts.

Giving compliments should be easy, but surprisingly, most people need practice to do it right. Always compliment

  • Politely: Be sincere, and use a genuine tone of voice. Insincere or snarling compliments are pointless.

  • Precisely: Be precise and detailed about exactly what the employee did well.

  • Promptly: Be timely.

  • Publicly: Usually, it’s best to praise in public.

    Shy people and those with cultural prohibitions against public praise are best praised in private.

Delivering compliments in person or in writing is largely a matter of personal style. Some people prefer face-to-face contact; others prefer e-mail. One nice thing to do is to compose a handwritten note, seal it in an envelope, and deliver it to the person with a handshake and a quick “Good job.”

Criticizing employees

Giving criticism can be difficult, but it's a necessary part of working. If you have to give criticism, make sure it's constructive: avoid anger and irrelevant detail, and always criticize the work, not the person. The only reason to give criticism is to improve performance. Criticizing is not complaining, and it's not attacking. You should criticize in the following manner:

  • Privately: Only the people you're criticizing need to hear what you have to say.

  • Politely: Focus your comments on the problematic work and not on the person. Avoid identifying what an employee did as "stupid," "brainless," or worse; your employees have feelings, after all, and you should keep them in mind.

  • Precisely: Criticism should be specific and constructive. Identify the problem and look for a solution.

  • Promptly: Hand out criticism as soon as possible. If you're mad, though, take a few deep breaths to calm yourself down first. You might need to take some time to formulate your criticism, but don't use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Procrastination only increases the chance that the problem will be repeated.

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