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Do you praise your employees enough? (updated)

Debra Sunohara

We’ve been spending some time in our recent blog posts talking about employee engagement and how the single greatest driver of employee engagement is the employee’s personal relationship with their immediate supervisor. Your ability to delegate and provide feedback plays an important role in developing these relationships.

Few managers however, realize that the same amount of care and judgment you use to delegate work should also be applied to effectively and appropriately deliver feedback. And if you’ve delegated well, then you should absolutely have occasions when you should and must praise your employees.

It is crucial for managers and leaders to recognize the importance of employee feedback.  Employees need to know when they have met our expectations, when they have exceeded them, and when they have fallen short. But do we praise our employees enough? Can you praise employees too much? Can too much praise be counterproductive? The following was originally posted March 27, 2012, and will provide a good overview of how, when, what for, and why to praise your employees.

Why praise?

As a leader and manager it is your responsibility to motivate and encourage your employees to improve their performance and strive for excellence.  A ‘great boss’ does not take their employees for granted; they can motivate and engage their employees through genuine appreciation and praise. Praising them gives them the feedback they need to know what they are doing well, what to do in the future, and to motivate them to keep doing it. Contrast this with punishment or reprimands, which only tell employees what not to do.

Praise can be a very powerful tool — it can:

  • Recognize, encourage, and motivate
  • Raise self-esteem, sense of power, energy, and happiness levels
  • Increase employee engagement, morale, and loyalty
  • Reward behaviour and good work — and you are more likely to get more good work!
  • Increase productivity
  • Improve communication
  • Foster a positive work environment
  • Strengthen the employee-employer relationship — an employer who praises his/her employee has taken the time to pay attention to their work
  • Takes little time to do and has enormous long-term impact on your employees and organizational climate
  • Decreased employee turnover

What should you praise?

  • Attendance and Punctuality
  • Communication
  • CooperationClapping hands-275x274
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Customer Service
  • Goal and Objective Setting
  • Initiative
  • Job Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Listening Skills
  • Managerial Style
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Teamwork Skills
  • Decision making
  • Time Management
  • A job well done
  • Contributions
  • A colleague for being a team player or going over and above

What not to do

  • Don’t go over the top praising some while ignoring others.
  • Don’t praise one employee while comparing him/her to another.
  • Don’t sugarcoat — praise should not be tied to criticism and reprimands to ‘soften the blow’.
  • Don’t use praise as a vice to wind up pressure to meet tight deadlines.
  • Don’t be phony — you will lose your credibility and your ability to motivate in the future if you don’t truly believe and mean what you are saying.
  • Don’t praise those who aren’t receptive to it — some individuals don’t like praise at all.

Showering employees with compliments is not the same thing as praising them.  And don’t worry, you won’t ‘spoil’ a good employee by praising them either. That said, there are a few guidelines that should be followed.

How to praise – Guidelines for Praising Effectively

  • Be genuine — Mean what you say!
  • Be credible — Make eye contact, smile and consider that your facial expression, body language, tone of voice and words all matter.
  • Be strategic — use praise to improve employee morale and performance, it’s not about a compliment.
  • Reinforce — that the work your employees do is important to you, the team, and your organization.
  • Be timely — acknowledge contributions and appreciation ASAP.
  • Be specific — link praise explicitly to specific examples and let your employee know that you are attentive to their work.
  • Go public — Give employees the opportunity be recognized by their co-workers and remind other employees of what you expect from them. (Shy away from praising an employer in public.)
  • Be proportionate — not too frequently (watered down praise) and not too little (ineffective praise).  Tip: Younger and newer employees may need more praise than older more experience ones. Boost an insecure employee’s confidence with more praise.
  • Praise teams — make sure everyone gets the credit and praise they deserve when a team effort is involved, stress individual contributions.

You don’t need a formal company program to show your employees and your co-workers you appreciate them.
Why not:

  • Submit them for an award
  • Use LinkedIn to write your co-worker a recommendation
  • Recognize them in your organization’s newsletter
  • E-mail your co-worker’s boss and let them what a great job they did or what a great help they were on a project.
  • Frequently use simple and timely statements – “Good job!” “Good point!” “Well done!” “I appreciate that!” and above all “Thank you!” can have profound effects.
  • Ask for their feedback or advice — in doing so you are indirectly praising their intelligence.
  • Deliver praise on the spot or ASAP — don’t wait for a formal or “good” time to praise.
  • End weekly meetings positively with a ten-minute window when anyone can highlight a co-worker or employee’s contributions.

Listening and paying attention to employees’ concerns should always go hand in hand with praise; praise can open the door to conversations and open dialogue between mangers and employees. What you should also be asking is…

What do you need from me?

Is your praise up to par?

What kind of feedback do you give your employees? What percentage of it is positive? Do you praise your employees enough? What kind of effect could praising your employees more have on employee engagement in your workplace?


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