Be quick to praise and slow to blame

It is not surprising that many managers and supervisors don’t know how and why to recognize their employees when those managers have been on the receiving end of criticism for most of their lives. That’s one of the reasons why they are quick to criticize in their turn.

How do we know that managers are quick to blame and slow to praise? The conclusive proof is in surveys conducted by Sirota Consulting, which revealed that only 38% of employees disagreed with the statement, “I get criticized much more quickly for poor performance than praised for good performance.” This figure was reached from interviewing 2.5 million employees in 237 private, public and not-for-profit organizations in 89 countries around the world over 10 years. And it was reached by surveying all employees in each organization, not just a sample.

A big influence on the compulsion to criticize is the way, from an early age, children find that parents and teachers focus on their mistakes rather than their achievements. A Gallup poll comparing parents’ focus on their children’s best grades compared with their focus on their worst grades in several countries and cultures found consistent negative focus. The scores were:

Focused on ‘A’s as a percentage
UK – 22
Japan – 18
China – 8
France – 7
USA – 7
Canada – 6

Focused on ‘F’s as a percentage
UK – 52
Japan – 43
China – 56
France – 87
USA – 77
Canada – 83

But where the focus is on praise, the results clearly show the benefits. (This doesn’t mean that the extreme of total praise is healthy, either. Experience with schoolchildren who are praised to the extreme has found them to be narcissistic and lacking in the resilience needed for coping with life’s ups and downs.)

A study of three groups of children in mathematics classes showed the rate of improvement from increased praise as follows:


Praised 71%
Criticized 19%
Ignored 5%


  •  Sirota, David; Mischkind, Louis A.; Meltzer, Michael Irwin. The enthusiastic employee – how companies profit by giving workers what they want. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Wharton School Publishing, 2005, pp. 207-208.
  • Losada, M. “The complex dynamics of high performance teams. Mathematical and Computer Modeling, 30, pp. 179-192, in Rath, Tom and Clifton, Donald O. How full is your bucket? New York: Gallup Press, 2004, p. 57.

Kim Harrison

Kim J. Harrison has authored, edited, coordinated, produced and published the material in the articles and ebooks on this website. He brings his experience in professional communication and business management to provide helpful insights to readers around the world. As he has progressed through his wide-ranging career, his roles have included corporate affairs management; PR consulting; authoring many articles, books and ebooks; running a university PR course; and business management. Kim has received several international media relations awards and a website award. He has been quoted in The New York Times and various other news media, and has held elected positions with his State and National PR Institutes.

Content Authenticity Statement. AI is not knowingly used in the writing or editing of any content, including images, in these newsletters, articles or ebooks. If AI-produced content is contained in any published form in future, this will be reported to readers.

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