“A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men” – Carlyle.

This is my experience in a previous office I worked in. We had this boss who was easily approachable and willing to listen to you even though he might not help you out. He was a ‘devout’ church goer, humble enough to share jokes and smiles with the staff when the mood strikes him. The greatest thing you can learn from him is his dedication to his job, he does not joke with his office because that was his primary source of income. He will often tell you that he does not advertise his business but rely solely on jobs done perfectly to speak for him. So he cannot afford to do his job sloppily.

However, the boss was, not just a stingy boss, but was forever complaining about this and that. He cannot appreciate a good job when it is done and at the slightest mistake you will receive his wrath. Most times, he will criticise the staff in question mildly but carry that same staff to discus, dissect and butcher with his friends, colleagues and any other staff who he feels is closer to him at the time. He will cuss and swear at such employee behind his/her back but would not say all that in his/her presence. Aside that, he dates any female staff he fancies who agrees to date him.
As for the staff, each of us had our shortcomings and the attitude of the boss began to take its toll on us and thus the organization as well. The zeal to work which most of us had initially began to diminish considerably, resentment began to mount. We lost the commitment to deliver, we just could not wait to get better job offers and quit that job. Coming to work was to apply for other jobs and opportunities as the boss’ work began to take second place. He was killing our spirit and we were allowing him to do so. We would all complain about his attitude and condemn him behind his back too. This cycle continued for months until it got so bad that the boss had to call meetings. It was at these meetings that he berated us and we ceased that opportunity to pour out our grievances. I am sure he was surprised at the outbursts and maybe hurt too, but he needed to hear it from us. It was as if the employees planned it, but we did not, not directly anyway.

There was marked improvement after that but not as much as it would have been had we talked calmly and in a matured way with each other, employer and employee. Importance of effective communication, especially face to face communication, not just in our corporate but individual lives too cannot be neglected. Imagine what would have happened had there been no communication at all between the management and staff.

We are wont to complain, criticize, condemn, and judge others when things are not moving as we wish. These are like swords, they tear people, relationships and organisations down, they inflict pains and demoralize, especially when the person is trying hard at what he/she does. They do absolutely no good because they suck as correctional measures, in fact, they may achieve the opposite result, breeding insecurity and making us resistant to the needed change. This is because we rationalize when criticized, we find reasons to justify our actions, and we make excuses. Sometimes, we hurt the other person with our admonishment and criticism so much so that they begin to doubt themselves and lose their self-confidence. The people may react positively to your criticism when you are present so as to please you or avoid your trouble, but that is as long as it lasts. Once you turn your back, they get right back to their usual way, sneering at you behind your back.

It is easier to complain and criticize but it is more effective to suggest or show by example. They say that doing same thing same way all the time and expecting different results is a mark of insanity. We have been doing this criticizing, condemning and complaining for years and I know it has not been too effective for you just as it had not been for me. Why don’t we try doing it another way? Dale Carnegie wrote in his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People –

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do. But it takes self-control to be understanding and forgiving”.

That is what great leaders like Abe Lincoln did that made them stand out, understanding and forgiving others. You may want to blow off steam and play the blame game when someone misbehaves or makes costly mistakes. However, before you criticize, pause for a while and put yourself in their shoes, they may be battling with some inner demons, fear, lack of understanding or some major crisis at that time. It would be more effective to reign in your temper, plant ideas, insinuate positive suggestions and encourage such a person to do better next time. Crying over spilt milk has never caused the milk to scoop itself back into the container. Communicate with them, do not just talk at them like they are robots, look at them and understand that like you, they have feelings and imperfections. Do not forget to appreciate people for their efforts no matter how little. It encourages them to do better next time.
Read through this letter, Father forgets written by W. Livingston Larned before you criticize.

Father Forgets by W. Livingston Larned

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guilty I came to your bedside.

These are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive – and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.

You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.

Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding – this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bed side in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy – a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.