Praise publicly; criticize privately.
That's a piece of employee management advice that has been around forever, and the Auburn City Council would do well to heed it.
At a very perplexing council meeting last week, members failed to get enough votes to go into an executive session to discuss City Manager Glenn Aho's review.
Two members had not filled out the review form, while another said she didn't turn one in "because I kept changing my answers."
Doing good employee reviews does take some thought and candor. An employer or manager usually needs to honestly answer some questions about the employee's performance over the past year, review accomplishments and set goals for the coming year.
This can be a lot of work for a supervisor with dozens of employees. But the Auburn council has only one: the city manager.
Aho welcomed the review and encouraged it, pointing out that he needed constructive feedback to improve his performance.
We certainly appreciate the desire of some councilors to avoid executive sessions, which are really another name for closed-door meetings.
Usually, as a newspaper, we are in the position of objecting to illegal secret meetings.
But, in the case of employee reviews, there is a legitimate exception in Maine law allowing for those discussions to be conducted behind closed doors.
Last week, the council needed five of seven votes to close the doors, but Councilors Belinda Gerry, Mike Farrell and Dan Herrick all voted against it.
That's unfortunate, because employees thrive on feedback from their employer. Performance suffers when goals and expectations are not discussed.
This has been a time of unprecedented challenges for the city of Auburn and for municipalities across the state.
State revenue sharing has been slashed, leaving towns and school districts making deep cuts and raising taxes.
And that's the part that sticks in the council's collective craw. They have been forced up against the wall by state cuts and stuck with the distasteful prospect of raising taxes to preserve basic services.
It has been a very bad time to be a town councilor or selectman, and an even worse time to be school superintendent or municipal manager.
Some people and organizations rally and pull together in a crisis. The Auburn council has spent its time splintering and bickering.
At times, the council has seemed angry about the process and determined to take its wrath out on the person closest at hand, namely Aho.
The council has shown a tendency to demand that things be done without providing the collective input or leadership to do them.
The failure of some members to do a simple employee review is the latest example of the problem.
It's called Leadership 101, and some councilors seem to be failing the course.