How To Improve Morale with Only One Change

I worked with a government official.  Let’s call him “Dan.”  He had an issue where he never heard about the problems his people were having until it was too late.  The issues had already grown to the point where his people were furious, feuding and in some cases, even quitting.  I asked him to try out something: stop criticizing his people.  “Dan” implemented this one change and within two weeks his people were coming to him with their issues long before they got blown out of proportion.

I have worked for Dale Carnegie now for more than three years.  The one thing that I have seen make more impact on workplace morale is the very first principle from Dale Carnegie: Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain.  It is no coincidence that it is the very first principle.

The world trains us to criticize, condemn and complain.  We hear it on the news.  We hear it when we are working, or shopping, or playing, or eating, or anything we are doing.  We even have people who are paid to be critics.  Think about that.  We pay people to tear apart the work of others.

Back to “Dan.”  Why did this one change have such a large affect on his people.  Simple.  His people were unwilling to come to him because he would automatically find what they did wrong and he had no problem telling them about it.  Ask yourself a question, if you had a boss who instantly put all of the blame of any situation onto you, how often would you go to them with your problems?

Now to flip the situation around with an example of mine.  When I started consulting for Dale Carnegie I found out that my boss truly lived the Dale Carnegie way, as well as all of my coworkers.  I do not believe that I can convey what it is like to be in an environment where people do not complain about you, or anything.  I was so unsettled by it that I found myself obsessing over wanting my boss to criticize me.  It was like I was addicted to criticism because I was so used to it everywhere else.  I believed that he must be criticizing me and just wasn’t telling me.  That is how pervasive criticizing and complaining are in our culture.

Once I got used to it though, I am amazed at how much it has affected me.  To say that I am excited to get up and come to work every morning is an understatement.  What would it do for you and your business if your team was highly motivated every day?

The last thing to think about is where you are eliminating criticizing, condemning and complaining from.  It is relatively simple to cut it out of what you say.  If you pay attention to your words and intentionally commit to removing complaints and criticisms from your speech, it can happen in a couple of weeks.  Where the real test comes is in removing them from your thoughts.  That is not easy, and I don’t even know if it is really possible.  I have been intentionally trying to not criticize, condemn or complain in my head for over three years now.  They still sneak in.  But they have greatly decreased over time, and even more importantly, I recognize when they are occuring and counteract them by trying to focus on the positive of whatever I was complaining about.

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain can affect your morale and the morale of everyone who works around you.  Give yourself a test.  Try not to do it for one week.  If you find yourself doing it, start over and try to do it for the next week.  Then keep increasing the time frame until you build the new behavior.  You will be amazed at the shift in your workplace.

~Ryan Lynch