Praise in Public, Chastise in Private

public domain, Wikipedia

public domain, Wikipedia

A good little bee is buzzing happily all about, spreading the word that employee engagement is a fine thing for a company, any company, all companies.  Go little bee, go – spread your engagement pollen and make them believe it, stay real and not all buzz speak on us.


A friend sent me a link which prompted this post.  Oh dear, the little bee isn’t happy at all about this – Public Firing.  It isn’t entirely clear from this snippet, but this is taken from a meeting where changes are being discussed and it is meant to help employees understand both culture and expectations in this company going forward.  I can only imagine what the intent was regarding senior management when they planned this meeting, but the unintended consequences of this are going to be huge.


We’ll just leave this sound snippet and its repercussions behind.


Both of my parents spent time in offices at various stages of their working lives and I learned this from them.  It is an ethic that was clearly important to them, and is not something that I ever questioned, even during my questioning teen years.


A workplace is a community of people.  People with varying levels and types of experience, differing types of knowledge and personalities.  There is a constant flow of intended and unintended activity – things go right and things can go wrong.  (Frankly, with so many variables it is interesting to me that things go right much more often than they go wrong.)


How a company, and any leader within that company handles the things that go really right and anything that goes wrong speaks volumes.  I think my parents got it right when they followed the praise in public and chastise in private principle.  The little employee engagement bee agrees.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

6 responses to “Praise in Public, Chastise in Private

  1. In general, that is very sound advice. However. there is a time when it becomes hard to decide what to do and that’s when issues surface in public. For example, we have a daily scrum/update/stand-up whatever you want to call it. We all talk about what we are doing, what we are stuck on and we offer a goal. Sometimes, someone will indicate that they are about to go down the wrong path. You need to be aware of the thickness of their skin when deciding whether or not to point that out during the call. The options aren’t always great. You can point it out live, you can telegraph your intentions with the “let’s talk about that after the call” or you can handle it off-line and let everyone wonder tomrrow. I’ve been working on a blog post about the daily update process, but I’m not comfortable with my conclusions yet. Actual chastisement, yes – always in private. Constructive criticism, hmmm? I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

    • A great point, Dan. I agree that with something like a group discussion meeting, with a team aspect, there is a fine line. Then a question that I brought up in a recent post called What is My Intent? comes into play. Purportedly everyone on the team has the intent to make the team and the project successful. Not everyone on the team has the same idea of how to make the success a reality. The project charter should address some of this at the start by clearly defining the parameters of the project. Then each team member should have a clear definition of their role and responsibilities. Now the question is whether your wrong path example is in their area or in the intersection of their area and others. If in their area, it may be in the best interest to take this part of the conversation offline and then update the group. If in an intersecting area, it is probably best to bring it up within the group in a neutral way – “hey, I get where you are coming from, I’m unclear how it fits with some of the other points, so let’s talk about this in respect to…”.

      Just a thought.

  2. Tom Marchok

    Interesting follow-up: On Friday the group you referenced in this post announced layoffs of up to half the staff.
    Tim Armstrong, the executive in the audio clip who professed to take responsibility for the poor performance of the unit ( immediately before he publicly fired an employee for taking a picture) still has a job.

    • Hmmm, I saw that unfortunate bit of news myself along with a quote from an analyst that went something along the lines of “paying humans to develop content isn’t a model that is working for us” – but look it up for yourself since I don’t recall it exactly. Along with critical thinking, one of my standard themes is respect for good work. Regardless of the level, honorable work should be respected.

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