3 Disadvantages of Criticizing Others

Note: This is a guest post from Jered Slusher of Mass Influence
Don’t you hate it when people criticize you? I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let myself get annoyed with people who are overly critical.
When somebody harps on you, judges you, condemns you, disapproves of you, rejects you, withdrawals their confidence from you, it can be extremely painful. Not only can criticism eat away at your self confidence, it can cause you to be offended by the criticizer, and put you on the defensive to justify your behavior.
Here are the three main disadvantages of mindlessly criticizing others:
1. Hurts another’s pride
Let me tell you a story about one of my former bosses. This is a totally extreme example to show you how bad criticism can be.
When I first started college, I worked at Taco Bell to pay the bills. The boss over the entire store was known for being one of the most critical and least friendly bosses. He would demoralize us by criticizing our work in totally uncool ways.
For instance, if we weren’t making Tacos fast enough, he would say that his Grandma could move faster than us. If we didn’t know how to do something, he would question our brain cell count. If we had to take a day off work, he would question our loyalty to the team.
The constant hounding really worked on people, and made them feel worthless. The pride in their work slipped, and they felt as if their work didn’t matter.
When people criticize us, it can eat at our pride and confidence in ourselves.
2. Causes resentment
When we feel that someone else is trying to put us down, it causes us to resent that person.
In my year and a half of working at the store the only positive comment I heard about the boss was that he “ran a tight ship, and got results.”
Surely, that was true. The store was the top in the district, and it’s where they sent managers from around the area to get trained.
But at what cost?
Ask anybody that worked for him, and they’ll say that he was one of the meanest, rudest, uncaring, and hurtful individuals that they had ever met. Sometimes he would even be sexist, and tell the women that they were “too slow,” to move over and let a real man do the job the way it was meant to be done.
I mean, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
Many of the workers were too scared to say anything to his face. But behind his back everyone talked about what a jerk he was, and how much they couldn’t stand working for him. My co-workers and I prayed for the day we could find another job and get out.
The fact is, when other people criticize us, it’s easy to resent them and not have consideration for them. Anyone that attempts to devalue us, deflate us, depress us is going to take us away from what we really want: significance and approval.
3. Puts other on defensive
If we are criticized, and have the will to stand up to the other person, it puts us on the defensive and causes us to justify why we act the way we do.
By all accounts, some of the workers were slow at preparing the food. And, indeed they were purposefully slow because of all the harsh put-downs that the boss had slung their way. So when it came time for him to criticize them again, they would begin to justify why they were so slow:
“If only you’d pay me more, maybe you’d get more work out of me.”
“You’re not moving so fast yourself. Why should I move any faster?”
“You make me this way with all of your comments.”
“What about you? You’ve been sitting in the office all day.”
And so on.
Even though the time to get the food out was becoming horrendously slow, the workers felt they had no other choice but to justify their actions. They were, essentially, defending themselves against being devalued anymore.
As a result, the whole store suffered. The times of getting food out suffered. The quality of the food suffered. The relationships in the store suffered.
The criticism that was so generously dished out served to spin the store into a negative and unrewarding work environment. People stopped caring, and started complaining and criticizing back.
If we’re not careful, other people’s harsh criticisms can cause us to abandon our values and fight back with harsh criticisms of our own. We have to be careful to guard ourselves against becoming just like the unnecessarily critical people.
Your Turn: Have you ever been criticized to the point where you let the other person get under your skin? How did it feel? Are you proud of your reaction? What do you think is the best way to deal with people who are overly critical, and downright hurtful?
Jered Slusher is the founder of Mass Influence Leadership, a community of leaders driven to gain control over their future, lead other people, and achieve massive amounts of success. Get your free “Stocking Your Leadership Super-Powers” e-book at http://www.massinfluence.org/free-book
Photo by ciccioetneo


  1. Fortunately I have never had a boss who would criticize me as much as yours. Criticism could be in a positive way and help it.
    What I find difficult to handle is criticism for things which may seem completely irrelevant and uncalled for.

    • Typically you are under attack by people with tall Poppy Syndrome … They resent you and attack because somehow they perceive you as better or more desirable. They feel your success makes them look bad … So they counteract that by announcing insults so that they look better …

  2. I think the most obvious effect it has is that it puts people on the defensive. You have to be very tactful when criticizing. Your aim should be to get a change in behavior, not to hurt the person.

  3. Great article. I agree wholeheartedly with Gordy. The goal should be to change people’s behavior not attack them. The kind of criticism described here is not only negative because of the demoralizing effect it has but also because it means that legitimate and constructive criticism goes ignored because it is lumped in with the rest. The title of this article is misleading, criticism is necessary in any work environment. However, it should be given constructively so everyone knows it is aimed at improving and benefiting the individual and group as a whole.

  4. I think that it is important to remember when speaking to an employee that while critisism is important, it needs to be something that the employee can actually act on. Just telling them they are too slow will not help, they need to be influenced to change and given ways that they can potentially change.

  5. I think there’s a fourth disadvantage.
    Prior to criticizing you have to make some kind of judgement. When you make a judgement you’re inadvertently closing yourself off to additional information or clues regarding why someone or something is the way it is.
    Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells the story of how, one day, he was riding the subway early one morning and found himself getting increasingly annoyed at a father who ignored his children as they ran up and down the railcar making a racket and being a nuisance. When he decided to complain, the father apologized and said that he and his children had spent all night in a hospital room with his wife, who had died that morning. The father had decided that it was best if his children ‘let off some steam’.
    The above story is an extreme, but it reminds me of how easy it is to jump to conclusions and then criticize when we don’t have all the facts.
    It’s easy to criticize and it makes us feel good, because it gives us the upper hand (at least, that’s what we think!). Stepping back, consciously taking in the big picture is hard to do, but when we do, we invariably gain additional insights that would never have occurred if we’d made a snap judgement.

  6. A bit long winded but good points. Non-constructive criticism is never a good thing.

  7. Yes, judging others before you get a chance to really know them, is really not fair to your or the person.

  8. I definitely like the aim of this article. While it’s necessary to inform workers if they’re not performing up to standards, acting out of line, etc., there are constructive ways to talk to them. By being constructive with criticism, or by making it clear that the person at fault is not getting in trouble for messing up, you just want to help improve their performance, you can help to correct problems without incurring anger or resentment from your worker.

  9. You don’t criticize your former boss in this article, do you?

  10. Criticism from others can hurt you to the core. If you are not careful you could actually develop a low self-esteem of yourself. I have recently received criticism for something that I know I am innocent of. To make matters worse this criticism was done completely behind my back by someone who was suppose to love me and not hurt me. This person belittled me to everyone who would listen and as result, I was snubbed by all those who believed her without even getting my side of the story which in effect makes them false witnesses. It did hurt me and still does, but since there is very little I can do about it I try to not allow it to occupy my mind.

    • Yes, I am in the same situation, only my brother is the one who demeans, insult and condemns me, and talking trash about my back with other family members. I was ruminating and worrying about it, and the more I thought about it, the more it began affect my self-esteem and self worth. Luckily I put all my emotions and thoughts on paper, journaling helps me to deal with worry, it might work for you too.

  11. I live with a man who I can never satisfy, no matter how hard I try. He always finds something to criticize about my cooking even tho I bust my butt to do it exactly like he wanted it, going by the past criticizing. I do feel the resentment and low self esteem. I feel like I can’t do anything right anymore, no matter how hard I try, it’s never good enough. I don’t know what to do anymore, I feel like a complete failure.

    • I think you should accept the fact that you can’t please everybody. As long as you have done what you can, you should feel good about yourself. Don’t base your self worth on what other people say.

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