Is the employee annoying? Isn't he doing what he should be doing? Is he behaving inappropriately?

Here is a key to effective leadership in this situation:

Intuitive behaviour is wrong here!

Many managers are in the area marked in blue. This is fatal for their leadership effect!

Many managers lead like this:

- If something fits (positive content), praise them.

- If something doesn't fit (negative content), they reprimand.

You are therefore moving along the diagonal marked in blue. What is fatal for their leadership impact is that they adapt the relationships they offer to the content. Positive content --> Positive relationship. Negative content --> Negative relationship.

Praise is poison. Rebuke as well. Why is explained below.

Effective leadership: Ruthless AND Appreciative

The working relationship is one of the most important relationships in life. If it is positive, it helps everyone. The organisation and the employees. Shaping this relationship is a management task. Some managers understand this intuitively and avoid negative content. This leads to the cuddle trap.

The key is: Addressing negative content with a positive relationship offer.

This is not easy, because it is a question of attitude. But when it works, it is incredibly effective. How you arrive at this attitude is individual. Possible steps are outlined here:

1) Core values: One value that should be high up in the personal hierarchy of values is to let other people have their opinions and beliefs. Anyone who has the feeling that they are smarter than their employees will inevitably end up being praised and criticised. (Note: Values have little to do with what you rationalise. But with what you do effectively in difficult situations). 

2) Non-negotiables: How far will I go to achieve my goals? Those who subordinate everything to their goals also end up in praise and blame, or even destructiveness. An effective attitude includes something like a red line.

3) Believe in people: Negative things can hurt. Why should you bring it up? And then relentlessly? And how can you be appreciative at the same time? Quite simply, if you believe in people and their further development, you can't help it! True respect means: to allow your vis-à-vis to see your own perception unsparingly. Because you want the person to grow. It's disrespectful not to say anything to someone if I think they're doing something wrong. That's how I think the person is stupid.

A similar attitude is needed to give effective feedback. Good feedback consists of 80% attitude and 20% methodology.


The working relationship is one of the most important relationships in life. If it is positive, the company also benefits! 

A positive relationship is sustainable and at eye level: everything can be said (unsparingly). However, the interpretation of how it really is is very carefully reflected (appreciative). This provides support and orientation. Relationships are like muscles: they grow when you use them and atrophy when you go easy on them (e.g. cuddle trap). 

Praise and blame have a toxic effect on any relationship: both can be unsparing, but not appreciative! Because in both cases, the interpretation, the power to define how it really is, lies with the manager: "I praise you because that was good". "I blame you, that wasn't a masterstroke." In 90% of cases, the person reprimanded feels unfairly treated. She did think about something, just not the same as her superior. And in 90% of cases, praise comes at a cost: either to the person being praised, because they no longer think for themselves, or to the team, which becomes jealous.

Sources and further links

The topic is closely linked to giving effective feedback.

The model comes from Stefan Heer / Leadnow and is inspired by a number of sources:

- the term "ruthless and appreciative" was picked up by Armin Haas

- Reinhard Sprenger summarised that praise is poison

- The idea that people should only be met at eye level stems from systemic constructivism and its further developments: Varela, Maturana, De Shazer, Luhmann, Schmidt