The Value of Abundant Praise at Work

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A senior-level leader once told me she wasn’t one to give much praise so she needed to hire someone who didn’t need that.  So, finding someone with a high level of self-confidence went on my list of have-to-have characteristics of the candidates.  However, it got me thinking, is praise only for those with low self-confidence?

I consider myself a confident person.  I know I do a great job for my clients, but nothing makes my day more than hearing it directly from them!

Myth: Not Everyone Needs Praise

I have heard people say they don’t need to be told they are doing a good job; they work hard no matter what.  That statement always makes me pause. I agree that highly self-aware and confident people don’t need an attaboy/girl daily to get the job done.  There are a lot of things we don’t need, but want or thrive on when we have them.

No matter how confident a person is, hearing what’s going well is critical input that indicates that they’re on track.  This feedback is important.  The direction you think you’re supposed to be going in and where you’re really supposed to go might be two different things.  A few words of confirmation go a long way to ensuring everyone is sailing the same course.

It’s also unquestionably more enjoyable and rewarding to work in a setting where you are told you’re doing good work. Who wouldn’t want that? Helping others feel good has a direct impact on the bottom line of your business. The book How Full Is Your Bucket? By Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton documents the research of the Gallup Organization on this topic as follows:

“Our latest analysis, which includes more than 10,000 business units and more than 30 industries, has found that individuals who receive regular recognition and praise:

  • increase their individual productivity
  • increase engagement among their colleagues
  • are more likely to stay with their organization
  • receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers
  • have better safety records and fewer accidents on the job . . .”

They’re paid to do the work; why do I need to praise them?

I’ve heard supervisors say that they shouldn’t have to take the time to tell employees they’re doing a good job because they are getting paid to do their job.  I have two thoughts about this statement.

First, it really shouldn’t take any extra time to give an employee praise.  If it does you’re doing it wrong!  If you are around them and you see them do something well, tell them.  If they turn in a report to you, tell them it looks great and you appreciate them turning it in on time.

Don’t hold your positive words for large projects, comment on small tasks as well.  It’s simply part of the daily interactions with others, not a separate, formal conversation.

Second, yes, they are paid to do the work, but this is not a compensation issue, it’s a work environment issue.  If you aren’t creating a warm, friendly, positive atmosphere for your staff, productivity will dip. Or they may simply decide to look for a job elsewhere. Perhaps with a friend who has a supervisor who tells him regularly what great work he’s doing.

Pay appeals to the head; praise appeals to the heart.  To create a knock-your-socks-off team, you need to grab both.

The case for adopting the habit of providing regular praise to your team members is crystal clear.  But what if you’re like the senior leader who said she’s not one to give praise.  What do you do?

Develop the Skill

Years ago in the results of one of the many personality assessments I’ve taken in my career, it said that I had positive thoughts and feelings but may not express them verbally.  I was horrified to consider that it may possibly be true!

I began immediately to move positive thoughts from my mind to my mouth.  Starting with small things such as complimenting someone’s hair or clothing got me in the habit of verbally expressing words of appreciation.  From there it was easy to transition into finding specific aspects of people’s work to give kudos to.

Once you train your mind to notice things and to share them, you’ll get lots of immediate feedback, typically in the form of smiles.   This will solidify your new habit so you won’t have to work so hard at it.

Here are some tricks to try until it becomes second nature.

  • Bring in cookies or other treats. Rather than setting them out in a shared space, walk around to each person and offer them a treat.  It will give you a moment of time with each person in which to tell them what they are doing well.
  • Start the day with ten pennies in one pocket. Move them one by one over to the other pocket as you dole out praise. Yes! I knew all those pennies weighing down my purse would come in handy!
  • Take ten minutes and brainstorm a list of as many things you can think of as possible that you appreciate about a particular person. These things will then be in the front of your mind the next time you see him/her, so it’ll be easier to share something specific.
  • If verbal expression is extremely difficult for you, words of praise are just as powerful and sometimes more if you put them in writing. An email or a handwritten note will only take minutes to write, but will provide substantial returns.

There are endless ways to get in the routine of saying kind words of encouragement.  Have fun with this and create some tricks that work for you!

Start Right Now

Do you want the people who work with you to perform better and stick around longer? Then you must become a supervisor who gives regular positive feedback. People go the extra mile for someone who acknowledges what they do.

Knowing that human beings thrive on positive feedback, invest in your staff today by giving compliments freely.  In fact, get up from your desk right now and go tell someone “good job” for a recent task.  The pleasure you’ll get from the experience will last the rest of your day.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts and feelings about the power of abundant praise in the comment section below. I can’t wait to read about your perspective and experiences.

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