There has been a lot written about the Millennial generation that grew up hearing “good job!” for nearly every achievement in their lives, whether it was coloring within the lines or winning a Nobel prize.
The result is that many of us pepper our speech with “good job!” at work, feeling that as a leader we must continually offer affirmation to everyone we see in a day. While we may believe that this is much better than being stingy with praise, the result is often the same: Workers are not motivated.
The key, experts say, is thinking about how and when is the best time to give praise. Time it right, they say, and you’ll reap the rewards of a more productive and engaged workforce. Do it wrong, and you could eventually drive team members into looking for another job.
Specifically, research results from more than 200,000 participants used in “The Carrot Principle” found that managers who were seen as giving effective recognition had lower turnover, achieved better organizational results and were seen as stronger in goal setting and accountability. Further, employees who worked for managers they believed gave them the proper recognition had better morale than those who didn’t give their managers such high marks.
Dale Carnegie Training suggests that the praise must be genuine in order to be effective. As a leader you have to stop and ask yourself if it’s really worth making a big deal out of someone simply completing a task — or is offering praise simply a way for you to tick it off your to-do list?
At the same time, offering praise that is too generalized can backfire, and may even seem insulting to the employee because you don’t seem to truly notice what he does. Avoid saying “good job” in passing and instead offer something like, “Thank you for helping us out; you were a major factor in the success of this ______,” the training center suggests.
In “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” authors Gary Chapman and Paul White say there are different ways that people feel appreciated, such as:
- Words of affirmation. Employees who value such words feel on top of the world when they are verbally praised for an achievement or accomplishment. “The more you can ‘catch’ a staff person doing a task in the way you want and you call attention to that specific task or behavior, the more likely that behavior is going to occur again,” the authors write. They also explain that you can focus on positive personality traits that will help such workers play to their strengths. “One of the things I admire about you is that you’re always optimistic,” is a way to show appreciation to an employee.
- Quality time. These employees feel the most appreciated when you stop by and say, “Tell me how things are going.” While some managers (read more here)
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