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To praise or not to praise. That is the question.

praising employees

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Some experts claim that praising a child only manipulates and steals his or her pleasure. Can we say the same for the employees? Isn’t giving feedback albeit compliments an essential aspect of creating a culture of a highly-engaged workforce? If you cannot praise your employees, what should you do then? What’s the reasonable compromise?

Praising boosts productivity

Indeed, new and more solid evidence regarding upholding positive feedbacks are emerging by the day. A study from Harvard Business School reveals that activating a person’s best self-concept can lead to immediate and long-term outcomes. Put simply, praising an employee often leads to improvements in:

  • Performance under pressure,
  • Creative problem-solving,
  • Resilience to stress and burnout,
  • Relationships with employers,
  • Emotions, and
  • Resistance to diseases.

Dr. Jooa Julia Lee, the co-author of the study, claims that employees who are reminded of their best work tend to be more creative and less stressed than those who receive no feedback whatsoever. That’s because there’s the constant yearning to learn about how he or she positively impacts or contributes to others, a part of the process of developing an employee’s best self-concept. Otherwise, there’d only be poor performance, emotional exhaustion, and high turnover.

When praising feels unnatural

Now we know that praising employees is a good practice. One problem that may arise from this situation, however, is that singing praises in public may feel unnatural. In other words, not all of us are comfortable in giving praises in private, what more in public?

Not all managers and supervisors are comfortable doing it especially in front of all other employees who are not the subject of the praise. There could be the fear of instilling a sense of indignity for some. Hence, they hold back. Some supervisors feel that praising their employees will only spoil them, so they keep the praises to themselves.

For some, the extent to which they can offer praises stops at annual performance reviews. It forms part of the performance appraisal, pointing out the person’s achievements and what needs to be improved. These “praises” are often formal and serious, and thus, cannot necessarily motivate the person.

Taking praising easy

What these managers and supervisors do not realize is that the failure to recognize the small wins of their subordinates is a deviation from their core responsibilities. A supervisor needs to encourage a worker so he or she would grow along with his or her job.

Furthermore, the study concludes with the fact that

Most societies and organizations have not created vehicles for reminding people who they are when they are at their best, even though theory suggests that this information can inspire them to achieve more of their potential.

There. There lies the importance of giving praises. Hence, any diligent supervisor would encourage his or her subordinates to push their limits while also building the right environment where they can do so. Such an environment could mean providing them with well-intentioned criticisms and sincere praises to guide their personal and professional growth.

Convey positive messages thoughtfully

Giving positive feedback should be intuitive. Nonetheless, there are instances when you need to choose your words to say to the person carefully more so when someone else is going to hear it. When you say “good job,” make sure it is clear what job you are referring to. Be specific.

Make the praise genuine

Never offer a praise just because you are compelled to do so. Praise whenever something good arises. And when you praise a person’s work, make sure that it is thoughtful and heartfelt to maximize the impact of your message. Make it meaningful because your employees would know that you’re just faking it.

Avoid the sandwich method

Perhaps, you have heard the cliché of providing negative-positive-negative feedback. Stay away from this technique otherwise it’ll become a nasty habit that only confuses your employees. Often, the staff will only focus on the negatives and forget about the positives completely.

Don’t over-praise

Over-praising has its own perils regardless of how well-intentioned it is. It can work against even with the best interest of your workers. A praise should not lose its meaning; the recognition must match the person’s effort and thereby, results. When you go overboard about praising, the perceived value of not just that one particular feedback but all the succeeding ones will be lessened.

Know the person

Again, it is not just the supervisors who may be uncomfortable in giving praises. Some of your workers may feel uncomfortable when receiving praises as it makes them the center of attention. Know how an employee responds to a recognition so the praise may achieve its intended impact.

Balance the praise

Top performers are producing great results because, well, they constantly receive recognitions. Just make sure that they are not performing just for the sake of leeching on praises. Thus, make sure that you praise or offer words of encouragement to your lackluster staffers. They need it.

Dale Carnegie Training provides a list of phrases to use when praising an employee.

  • I am learning a lot from you.
  • I am really glad that you are part of our team.
  • I really trust you and that means a lot to me.
  • Thank you for helping us out; you were a major factor in the success of this _____.
  • That’s a great idea; let’s roll with it. In fact, why don’t you take the lead role in getting it done.
  • You are one of the best _____ that we’ve had in this position.
  • You have a rather significant contribution to this project; thank you.
  • You have truly set a new standard for all of us.

Forbes also offers suggestions on how to go about praising your employees.

1) Focus performance appraisals on strengths instead of weaknesses.

2) Provide opportunities to succeed and excel and let them know if they are doing well or not.

3) Promote a culture of commendation.

Providing feedback is a fundamental part of people management. It can be good or bad. It can be positive or negative. It can be a praise or criticism. However, it must never be ugly. Strike a balance between providing the most accurate feedback based on performance and outcome. Eventually, you’ll be seeing deeply engaged and highly-performing staffs.

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