Rethink Criticism: Is Your Criticism of Employees Actually Contempt? #Leadership

When it comes to leading morale, rethink criticism and how you give it. When you criticize employees, do they hear value or contempt? This is an important question that drives employee experience and satisfaction. The following list will help you rethink criticism and lead morale so much better.



Rethink Criticism: Image is burned matches curving over.

Rethink Criticism: Is Your Criticism of Employees Showing Contempt? Image via Marco Verch Professional Photographer.

Image by Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr Creative Commons License.


Rethink Criticism: Are You Showing Contempt for Employees?

Let’s first consider the definition of contempt: the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Source: Oxford Language Dictionary

    Leaders, criticism can seem like contempt when you:

  1. Use demeaning words instead of objective observations about their work. Example of contempt: “Why am I even paying you?” Making employees feel worthless won’t make them work harder. Don’t degrade employees. Coach instead of diminishing who they are.


  2. Show prejudice. Prejudice, racism, sexism, etc… show contempt for others. Moreover, when you say racist or sexist things in your criticism of employees, they will hear your contempt for who they are as people. Rethink criticism and any biases you may have. Valuable criticism is founded in explicit observations of behaviors and actions they can change. Your disdain is of no value to them.


  3. Nit pick. If you are constantly criticizing employees for the littlest things, they will hear contempt for who they are. If you expect perfection or struggle with obsessive compulsive behavior yourself, rethink criticism and how you give it. Employees may well hear contempt when you didn’t even intend it.


  4. And when you …

  5. Use sarcasm when giving them feedback. Sarcasm sounds disdainful. Don’t use it. Speak with care and honesty. Leave the sarcasm to the insult comedians in the world.


  6. Compare them to other employees you admire. Not only does this sound like contempt, it crushes teamwork and morale. Coach each employee don’t set them up against each other.


  7. Think it’s your right to toughen employees up. They will hear contempt for who they are as you focus on being tough on them. If you were in the military and officers did that to you, don’t do it to employees in business. They are not in the military and neither are you anymore.


  8. Consider emotion and emotional intelligence a bunch of bunk. You may pride yourself on being unemotional and super logical yet you are leading human beings. If you tell them they are being overly emotional, they will hear this as contempt. Better to understand where the emotion is coming from and then help them find a path forward. Empathy leads better than scorn.

  9. And finally when you …

  10. Yell and scream at them. Unless there is a life and death emergency that requires it, yelling at employees is futile. Most freeze up and later see you as an ineffective leader. Fear does not engage employee talents; respect, trust, and honesty do.


Rethink Criticism – Summary

Communicating with respect and objectivity has value. It helps you and your employees grow. Showing contempt for them — whether you intend to or not — crushes morale and results. Watch your words and your tone of voice. Rethink criticism and make sure you don’t show contempt and scorn.



How did you feel when someone’s criticism of you turned into contempt?


From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
7 Essential Steps to Inspire & Lead Morale
9 Valuable Conversations to Lead Morale
10 Ways to Ignite Greatness Without Leaving Scars
Leaders, Are You Strong Enough Inside NOT to Leave Scars on Others?

©2021 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.


Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.



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3 Responses to “Rethink Criticism: Is Your Criticism of Employees Actually Contempt? #Leadership”

  1. Leslie Gallery-Dilworth says:

    Excellent article. Brief and to the point. Thank you.

  2. Sw?m?ni Swaprabh?nanda says:

    . So informational and inspiring!
    . Your precious pointers will be shared as I counsel corporate management staff!
    . Thanking you whole heartedly for letting us – readers have free access to your precious knowledge and experiential wisdom!
    Wishing you and family happy holidays, happier 2022 +…!

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