A few years ago, I was asked by a client to speak to a group of senior managers about coaching employees. During the program, I discussed the power and importance of praise for a job well done. When it came time for Q&A, one high-level leader asked, “Why should I praise my employees for doing their jobs. They’re getting a paycheck. Isn’t that enough?
NO, it’s not!
All too often, many people miss the opportunity to praise employees for a job well done because they either don’t think to do it, or have some misconception that employees don’t need praise because they already knows what they’re doing is the right thing. However, doesn’t it feel great to have someone notice your hard work? It doesn’t have to be a 30-minute speech to have an impact. Simply noticing is often enough.
The power of praise is simple: Praise great performance and the employee is likely to repeat it.
If you see people doing great work, it doesn’t matter if it is extraordinary effort, or something in their job description – say something and they’ll likely continue that great work. If you see people doing great work and you ignore it, they’ll start to wonder whether “going the extra mile” or taking the time to do things right is worth it when no one seems to care.
In 60 seconds or less, you can not only make someone’s day, but show them that doing great work is important to you and your organization by following these simple tips for providing meaningful praise.
1. Praise in person, so your nonverbal communication can reinforce your message.
Leaving a note or sending an email is nice, but taking the time to seek someone out and provide face-to-face praise shows them that their good performance really means something to you. It also allows you to use your nonverbal communication, such as your tone of voice and facial expression, to reinforce the sincerity of your praise, or your enthusiasm about their great performance. If you want to provide something in writing to ensure the good work is documented, then do so after providing the feedback in person.
2. Use the person’s name.
Using the person’s name while praising adds an extra level of sincerity and personalizes the praise. When you say, “Wow, Paul! You really handled that call well . . .”, Paul will note that the praise is specifically about him and not some generic comment you make to everyone, such as “Keep up the good work, dude.”
3. Be specific.
Tell people exactly what they did well so they’ll know what to repeat. Don’t just say, “You really handled that call well.” Go on to say, “I could tell that the customer on the line was upset because I could hear her yelling across the room. However, you stayed calm and clearly explained what she needed to do to return the product.” By noting the exact behaviors, such as staying calm and clearly explaining the steps for a return, you let Paul know exactly what you want him to do again next time.
4. Share the positive results of the person’s good work.
Once you’ve said exactly what was done that was so great, be sure to share why it was so great. It’s important that employees see the impact of their good work and understand why it’s so important to do every job well. “As a result of the way you handled the call, the customer not only calmed down, but she sent me an email telling me about how well you dealt with the situation. She said you made her a lifelong customer.”
5. Don’t diminish the praise with negative comments.
Don’t praise the employee for doing a good job and then add, “I’m glad you’re finally willing to do what it takes to get the job done.” Adding a criticism or negative editorial comment basically ruins the praise. Let the praise stand alone. Additionally, and especially if you are praising an employee in front of others, don’t use the praise as an opportunity to make others feel guilty. A comment such as, “You guys could learn a thing or two from Paul,” or, “Too bad the rest of you can’t handle calls as well as Paul.”
6. Praise privately, as appropriate.
As much as some people appreciate public recognition, there are others who are embarrassed by it. Additionally, praising an employee in front of his or her peers can cause jealousy. If you praise publicly, do so carefully and be sure that you’re taking opportunities to praise all employees, not just one or a select few. Praising privately allows you some one-on-one time with an employee and gives him or her the opportunity to share more about the success. For those who only say, “I need to see you in my office,” when things go wrong, it allows them to use their office for praise and Performance Improvement Feedback, thereby helping to change the perception of being called into the boss’s office.
Taking the time to praise employees is just as important, if not more important, than taking the time to address performance problems. It’s an integral part of the employee feedback process that should be done regularly. Don’t wait until an official performance appraisal to let employees know when they’re doing a good job. Don’t walk away from a situation THINKING, “Wow, she really handled that well.” Turn around, open your mouth, and share the good news. Finally, although this post is focused on employee feedback, the power of praise is just as important to harness in our home and personal lives, so be sure to take the opportunity to praise your family members, friends, neighbors, and others as well.
Amy Castro is a workplace communication and customer service expert and speaker. She is also the author of Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done.