Does Praise Work Better Than Criticism?

The core responsibilities of a manager are to supervise, train, and motivate employees, in order to get the best possible productivity and performance. In most cases, an individual’s managerial style leans toward criticism or praise, but which strategy works better to influence your employees in the right direction?


Criticism and long-term effects

Employees facing a barrage of criticism often have few options. In the short term, overly critical managers may realize a payoff in productivity as their staff increases efforts and energy to get the job done — but over time, that expended energy exacts a price.

A work environment where constant criticism is the rule becomes toxic and underproductive. Employees simply run out of motivation to succeed, because there is no reward for meeting their obligations. Rather, there are only penalties for not meeting them. High levels of criticism lead to lowered morale, decreased productivity, and the loss of your top performers as they seek more supportive work environments.

The power of praise

Considering the ways that criticism affects your workplace, it’s straightforward to assume that praise has the opposite effect. Offering your employees praise allows you to increase productivity, boost morale — and in many cases, raise profits.

In a 2010 study published by Harvard Business Review, researchers found that by increasing employee engagement by just 0.1 percent, Best Buy realized an increase of $100,000 in operation income per store, per year. The most important employee engagement factor in this study was simple recognition for jobs well done.

Tips for delivering effective employee praise

Praise offered the right way, and balanced with occasional constructive criticism, can truly motivate your employees and create a happy and productive workplace environment. Here are some tips on offering powerfully effective praise:

  • Don’t wait. Singling out employees for praise at a staff meeting is nice, but if there isn’t a meeting in the very near future, it’s best to offer praise right away when you notice something positive. The longer you wait, the less effective and motivating the praise will be.
  • Mean what you say. Randomly telling employees “Great job!” is not only meaningless, but also obviously less than sincere. People can tell when you’re being genuine, and when you’re faking it — so view praise as a way to show your authentic appreciation, and not a “praise quota” that will somehow improve productivity.
  • Get specific. Phrases like “You’re doing great” or “I appreciate all your hard work” can sound empty, and won’t help to reinforce exactly why you’re pleased. Being specific with your praise will not only make employees feel better, but also ensure they keep up what they’re doing well.
  • Offer praise in public. Telling an employee that you appreciate what they’re doing (with specific information) while others are around can be doubly motivating. You’ll not only make that specific employee happy because others have heard they’re doing a good job, but you’ll also motivate those who hear what you say to strive for a similar great performance.

Consistent praise, combined with constructive feedback, can elevate employee morale and bring your team together around common goals. When it comes to motivation and productivity, praise works.  To learn more about how we can help you find top behavioral health talent, contact us today at (513) 651-9500 or by email at

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