Is Criticism More Effective Than Praise?

As a manager, do you often resort to employee praise more than actually giving them the constructive criticism they need to hear? No one wants to make waves, especially in the workplace. But, this could be doing more damage than good. How? Let’s consider the following reasons, and if criticism is more effective than praise at work.

Criticism is about perception, not always about performance

When giving either positive or negative criticism to employees, managers must be mindful of how this will be perceived by the other side. If there is a good relationship in place, the criticism will be better received than if there are problems between you and the employee. How people perceive what others have to say can alter the original intent of the criticism if it’s not based on actual performance. Keep all words focused on improving performance of specific tasks and less about the personality play.

Praise can sound too fake, criticism can be honest

One aspect of criticism that can be better for employees is that it’s about being honest and straightforward with the employees. While employee praise can appear to be forced or insincere at times, criticism is more direct and gets to the point faster. Positive feedback and criticism can be handled so that it sounds a little more like praise, but there needs to be a balance between the negative and positive. Don’t go overboard with the praise and then come at an employee with a horribly negative talk as it will only serve to confuse them.

Criticism is the only feedback some employees need, praise doesn’t give enough information

Add to the above points, the criticism can be broken down into smaller chunks of specific performance issues. It can be delivered over a period of time as the employee is given the support to meet and exceed expectations. Praise, on the other hand, doesn’t get to the core issues and instead glosses over things, failing to give the employee actionable items to work on.

Criticism can leave out the personal, praise is personal

Some may say that criticism isn’t as personal as praise in the management sense, but this can be a good thing. After all, it isn’t a popularity contest and it never should be at work. Get to the point of directing people and helping them use their talents and you take the personal aspect out of the equation with criticism. Be constructive and blend your message with positive words to encourage the employee, but keep it professional and focused on their improvement.

If you follow the above thoughts, you’ll see why criticism is part of management that should be used during appropriate times.

Portico Staffing, based in West Des Moines, has been connecting Des Moines professionals and employers for nine years. Learn more at