Giving praise at work freely is a relatively new concept in the early 21st century. We are now in an era in which companies are recognizing that money actually isn’t the greatest motivator for many people. However, praise and recognition are easy to give and cost nothing, but they produce measurable results that are mutually beneficial for both employees and employers.
Be a Believer
The first step to using praise at work is recognizing its benefits. As a manager, if you don’t believe in the importance of praise, the people around you will most likely follow suit. So to start, we need to identify some of the key reasons why praise is important. The first one is easy -- appreciation. Almost everyone wants to feel appreciated and, of course, authentic praise can accomplish this. Second, effective praise can help business. A late 2012 survey conducted by Society of Human Resources Management/Globoforce reported that “more than half of respondents say they observed that productivity, customer/employee retention, employee engagement, return on profit margin, and return on equity increased as a result of employee recognition programs.”
We’ve all heard general praise such as, “good job,” but think about how it made you feel. Did you walk away feeling encouraged and empowered to continue doing an excellent job? Did you even really understand what made the job you did "good"? Many times the answers to these questions is no. Therefore, it is vital that praise be specific. The result of this is twofold: First, the person being praised knows exactly what to keep doing. Second, the person feels special because no one else received the exact same praise she did.
Although praise can be an amazing motivator, it can also be harmful if people perceive the praise as insincere. One way to combat this is to make sure the praise is thoughtful. If this seems difficult, often you can start with identifying the strengths of the person you want to give praise to. What does she naturally do well? This may be something simple like having a positive attitude, following directions or being considerate, for example. Once you have figured this out, then just be observant and wait for that perfect opportunity to tell her specifically what she did well and how it made you feel. For example: “I really appreciated how kind you were to that customer. It made me feel proud to work with you.”
Once your praise is specific and genuine, the last crucial step is to give praise frequently. It’s difficult for most people to maintain excitement and passion when given praise once a year or once a quarter. Effective praise should be given weekly, daily or whenever there is reason. Successful praise also occurs frequently in private and in public. Alternating between one-on-one and public praise gives people the best of both worlds: Those you are praising are able to have a meaningful, individual relationship with you, but their peers recognize and congratulate them on their accomplishments as well.
Sydney Neely has worked in the education arena for more than 10 years, teaching general education, the arts, communication and finance. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Arizona State University. Neely also holds several state and federal financial licenses in life insurance and investments (Series 6 and 63).