Management Success Tip #184: How to Communicate Criticism So It Gets Heard!


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

It would be a lovely world if employees did everything they were supposed to do, exactly the way you wanted it and in the time frame you desired. Your managerial tasks would be reduced to making glowing reports to the higher-ups, and handing out congratulations.

Unfortunately, there are times—probably more than you’d like—where you must set employees straight, get them back on track (or sometimes on the track in the first place), and point out the flaws, problems and failures in their work. The easiest option is to say your criticism like it is, and have done with it.

However, as Sheila Heen, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and co-author of “Thanks for the Feedback” so accurately states, showing people how they stack up is the “emotionally loudest” type of feedback. No matter how softly spoken, gently worded, or accurate your criticism is, it tends to overpower any appreciation or coaching, especially among younger workers.

This is no doubt one of the reasons for the success of Dr. Gottman’s famous “5:1” ratio in relationships: it takes five positive comments to balance out one negative comment.

Two helpful guidelines:

  1. Yes, follow Dr. Gottman’s ratio and do your best to offer five positive comments to counteract your one negative comment. Not necessarily in the same conversation, that would be beyond phony, but as a general rule of good communication. Be deliberate in finding positive things to say about your employee’s work, since the negative things are all to easy to come up with.
  2. Be specific with your criticism. “Your work is sloppy” is useless. It is hurtful and doesn’t give your employee any direction. To a legal assistant, for example, “Your work is sloppy” is better relayed as follows: “Please be sure to include legal references in footnotes at the end of every page. Please check your punctuation and spelling before handing over a brief for my review.”

Positivity works best when mixed with a small dose of judicious criticism.


New Flextime Pilot Program at MIT Holds Clues on How to Keep Older Workers Happy, Productive and Working Longer

Results of a flextime pilot program at MIT holds clues on how to keep older workers happy, productive and on the job longer–at a time when many are predicting labor shortages.

Employers should take note. This is a worker population whose needs have to be addressed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 million Americans who were 55 or above were in the workforce in 2015. Another 1.3 million were seeking employment. By 2022, older workers will outnumber younger workers.

One way employers can make it easier for older workers to stay on the job is by offering flextime. The MIT flextime pilot program encouraged employees to work remotely at least two or three times per week with Wednesdays being the only day of the week to work in the office. Staffers were told not to feel compelled to follow a 9-to-5 schedule but be mindful of others’ working hours. They were encouraged to “unplug” so they weren’t connected to work 24/7. After six months, 100 percent of the participants said they would recommend the program to others. Workers said they felt less stressed and overall morale was up.

What does that mean for older workers? When we start to see more flextime in the workplace, we’ll also start to see a reduction in absenteeism and an increase in productivity—from all age groups. Older workers today are healthier and more active than the generations before. They have non-job interests and they want time for those too. Just like their younger counterparts, older workers need the freedom to get things done outside of work. For example, they often have older parents that need their care. Flextime gives them the time to be there for their parents, which means they can be more productive and focused at work.

As employers realize the value of older workers (who often bring with them an abundance of skills, experience and education) and as the unemployment rate remains low. flextime, especially for companies that cannot afford other incentives (i.e., pay raises), may be the answer to enticing these workers to remain on the job.

Management Success Tip #183: Wanna Be a Truly Awesome, Stellar, Super-Star of a Manager? Loooove Your Work!

#183 Sira Anamwong

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong /

You know what makes a great manager? A truly awesome, stellar, super-star of a manager? One who looooves his/her work. A manager who is eager to get to work, dives into projects with gusto, and who is inspired by deadlines and quotas rather than defeated or demoralized by them. One who looooves his/her employees, clients, customers. Who knows them inside and out, knows what resonates with them and does his/her very best for and by them, every day.

I fly a lot for work, and thus have been subjected to umpteen routine flight attendant announcements before takeoff: you know, all the safety instructions about seat belts and oxygen masks and the rest. Sometimes a flight attendant will smile during the announcement, and that certainly helps, but most of the time you can tell the attendant is bored, just dishing out a script, with little if any interest in how it is being received, other than clarity of information.

But sometimes, you get a flight attendant, who really knows his/her “clients,” who understands the inconveniences of economy travel, and who must have a supervisor who supports and motivates his/her employees to loooove their job. This is a quick youtube example of just such a flight attendant.

The more you loooove your work, the more you make it easy for your employees to loooove their jobs, the more successful you—and your company—will be.

Look how it’s worked for Southwest airlines! They have been the most successful domestic airline for years, turning a profit when other airlines were going down the tubes. They really are all about the “LUV.”

Not a bad example to follow!