Hold Your Praise and Criticism

 Over the years I've had quite a few problem employees.

Some were good performers, but socially challenged -- meaning they couldn't get along with their peers.  Some were hard workers that had one or twof fatal flaws that were going to make long term success a challenge.  Others were mediocre performers (or worse) that seemed to have convinced others they were stellar, and thus valuable beyond measure.  Some had no real clue if they were good or bad, and usually didn't want any feedback on the subject.

Dealing with these problem employees was often challenging enough by itself, but what really turned things into a three ring circus was getting my boss in the middle of it.

Over a number of years, I learned the hard way to keep my "boss commentary" as close to "down the middle" as possible when it came to subordinate's performance.

In one early incident, I recall mentioning that a particular direct report had:  "...managed the development of many of our current products."  When discussion turned to his complete inability to maintain a schedule or keep his commitments, however, my boss was willing to forgive those flaws because of the way I'd previously praised his track record.  Of course, he wasn't interested in giving me a pass on schedule or performance.  I ended up responsible for the outcomes, but forbidden from making the change that would have had the most impact on the improving the results.

In another incident, I casually mentioned that a particular direct report seemed a little slow on the uptake.  This employee was a strong performer, and I was quite happy with his contribution, but the impression this comment caused seemed to hang around his neck like an albatross.  The boss missed no opportunity to try to upstage and embarass the employee in public settings.  I was eventually subjected to interrogations on a regular basis by the boss concerning when I would be firing him.

I've mentioned this observation before, but it bears repeating -- managers have limited time, and tend to form opinions of others rapidly, as a result.  The higher in the organization you go, the quicker the manager tends to pass judgment, and the less likely they are to accept the possibility they are wrong (perhaps this can at least partially be blamed on "leader-worship" and a general unwillingness of anyone to challenge the top executives).

That's why it is best to keep most of your opinions about your key people to yourself.  Only offer criticism or praise when you're sure you can deal with the likely consequences of the boss'es meddling -- such as when you already plan to make a change, or a promotion.  9.3


Other Recent Posts:

When to Pull the Plug on an Employee

Getting What You've Always Gotten

The Boss's Widget

Backchannel Communication

Doling Out Raises

If you are intriqued by the ideas presented in my blog posts, check out my other writing.


Corporate Thriller novels: LEVERAGEINCENTIVIZE, and DELIVERABLES.  These are all based on extensions of my basic experiences in the world of corporate management.