GMAT : Analysis of An Issue

Previous Page

An Issue

50. How far should a supervisor go in criticizing the performance of a subordinate? Some highly successful managers have been known to rely on verbal abuse and intimidation.


Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the opinion expressed above. Support your point of view with reasons and / or examples from your own experience, observations or reading.


Unsatisfactory employee performance demands appropriate response from a manager or supervisor. The question is what is appropriate? Some managers might claim that verbal abuse and intimidation are useful in getting employees to improve. While this may be true in exceptional cases, my view is that the best managerial responses generally fulfil two criteria.
(1) They are respectful.

(2) They are likely to be the most effective in the long run.

Treating employees with respect is important in all contexts. Respect, in the most basic sense, involves treating a person as equal in importance to oneself. For a manager or supervisor, this means recognizing that occupying a subordinate position does not make a worker a lesser person. And it means treating subordinates as one would want to be treated honestly and fairly. Using threats or verbal abuse to elicit better employee performance amounts to treating a worker like the office copy machine as an object from which to get what one wants.

Moreover, while verbal abuse might produce the desired reaction at a particular time, it is likely to backfire later. Nobody likes to be abused or intimidated. If such methods were the general practice in an office or division, overall morale would probably be low. And it is unlikely that employees would give 100 percent to managers who so obviously disregarded them.

More beneficial in the long run would be careful but clear feedback to the worker about specific deficiencies, along with ideas and encouragement about improvement. In addition, supervisors should allow employees to explain the problem from their point of view and to suggest solutions. Of course, a supervisor should never mislead a subordinate into thinking that major problems with work performance are insignificant or tolerable. Still, an honest message can be sent without threats or assaults on self-esteem.

In conclusion, supervisors should avoid using verbal abuse and threats. These methods degrade subordinates and they are unlikely to produce the best results in the long run. It is more respectful and probably more effective overall to handle cases of substandard work performance with clear, honest and supportive feedback.

Analysis of An Issue Index