Do you ever feel like there is way too much appreciation going on in your workplace? If you said no, you’re not alone. Your team would probably say the same thing. In fact, a Gallup study revealed that 65% of employees haven’t received recognition in the last year.

This is problematic because employees who don’t receive recognition are 51% more likely to look for another job; are less motivated to produce more and better work; and they could lose respect for you as a leader.

One of the most important communication skills in a leader’s skill kit is the ability to give positive feedback. This is also one of the most underdeveloped skills for many leaders. The reason is that some leaders just don’t know where to start. Or, they think a generic ‘Thanks’ is sufficient. It’s not. Once you know the basics, you can quickly become a pro at this important skill.

Here are the 5 most common questions leaders have about giving praise:

Why should I praise someone for just doing their job?

Two words – positive reinforcement. Do you want them to keep doing their job? Keep this phrase in mind: what gets rewarded gets repeated. If you want them to keep doing their job let them know that their work is appreciated.

One study concluded that 81% of employees would produce better work more often if they received personal recognition for their efforts.

That seems like a good return on investment for a few sincere words of appreciation.

I don’t need praise, why do they?

Who knows? Everyone has different internal drives that determine what motivates them. Besides money, which is really just a means to an end, recognition is the number one motivator for people in the workplace.

If you are motivated by achievement and not recognition you may not understand why someone needs a pat on the back. In fact, you might think they are being needy. Beware. That kind of thinking is a barrier to your own growth and could hold you back.

The best leaders understand that everyone is different and they meet people where they’re at without judgement.

How do I give praise without sounding phony?

The secret to meaningful recognition is to make it sincere, specific, and timely.

  1. Sincere. This part is easy. If you are specific and timely and you are genuine with your praise you will automatically come across as sincere.
  2. Specific. The main reason the people who do receive recognition don’t like it is that it’s vague and doesn’t mean anything. They would rather not hear anything than get another generic ‘Good job!’ Saying ‘Thanks for taking the initiative to help John get that order out. I really appreciate your teamwork.’ is much more effective. The person is more likely to repeat the behavior when they know what the praise is for.
  3. Timely. Say it as close to the event as possible. If you see something on Monday don’t wait until Friday to bring it up. You might forget, or the person might mess up during the week and you’ll focus on what went wrong instead of what they did right, and it loses its impact. Follow this rule for keeping your praise timely: when you see it, say it.

Should I praise in public or in private?

Many leaders are hesitant to give recognition in public. They worry that it will look like favoritism or make lesser performers feel bad. Put both of those worries out of your mind.

You don’t need to be concerned about favoritism if you make a habit of actively seeking out positive actions from everyone on the team. Praising everyone on a regular basis creates a culture of appreciation that will spill over into other people.

One benefit of praising in public is that it shows the lower performers what is possible and what you’re looking for. So rather than demotivating them it can actually be the shot in the arm they need.

Don’t diminish the achievements of your top performers out of fear that other people will feel bad. That’s nonsense and just creates a pool of mediocrity that isn’t inspiring to anyone. Instead, coach your low performers and help them to meet performance expectations.

A Gallup survey shows that public acknowledgement is the most memorable type of recognition.

However, it’s a good idea to find out how the individual employee feels about public recognition first. Some people prefer private recognition and your public recognition would backfire badly. Do a simple survey to find out what each team member prefers.

How often should I offer praise?

We know that once-a-year praise is not enough, but many leaders don’t know how often they should acknowledge good work. This is a good question because praising too often can be as bad as not praising often enough. Running around giving high-fives, thumbs up, and generic ‘thanks’ is exhausting for you and uninspiring to your team.

A good rule of thumb is to provide positive praise to each person on your team once a week. I know what you’re thinking… some people aren’t doing anything worth praising on a weekly basis. It’s true that some people are harder to give appreciation to than others and you may have to dig deep but the benefits are worth it.

Did your chronically tardy employee show up to the meeting on time? Let them know you appreciate their effort. Don’t do that one in public and make sure you don’t have any sarcasm when you say it.

Sometimes the hardest people to praise are the ones who come in day after day and do their job. Nothing more, nothing less. These are the ‘Steady Eddie’s’ and you need them. In fact, there’s a good chance that the majority of your team falls into this category. They are consistent and you can count on them. If you want them to stay that way you need to let them know that you appreciate them.

If someone truly isn’t doing one thing a week worth recognizing you really need to ask yourself why they are on your team.

Here’s a simple technique for staying on track:

  1. Create a Recognition Log with a list of the names of your team members
  2. Put a check mark next to their name every time you acknowledge their good work
  3. Make a brief note about what they were recognized for
  4. Review the list at the end of the week to ensure that you gave positive feedback to each person

An added advantage of keeping a recognition log is that you will have concrete examples at your fingertips when it’s time to write their formal performance appraisal. Wouldn’t that be nice!

The benefits of appreciation are clear: increased retention; motivated team members who work hard; and respect for you as a leader. Get started today. And who knows, maybe you’ll get the appreciation you deserve as well!

Appreciation: Catch Them in the Act!
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