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The key point in your discussion is the part about "well-aimed compliment."

If praise and recognition is doled out for just anything then over time is does become devalued.

But...praise and recognition tied to SPECIFIC and MEASUREABLE accomplishments never loses its value.

Paul:

Point well taken, especially - I guess - in view of all that is written these days about the up and coming "most praised generation". It takes discipline and attention to provide praise that is well-targeted and specific. My experience, at the ground level where I work, is that it remains a cheap and under-utilized reward for most organizations.

Timely and merited praise is good. It's a supervisor's main tool for getting people to try something or continue something. It also contributes to the character of a great workplace. I tell people in my programs that and suggest they need to consciously look for opportunities to praise their people, since most of us have not developed that habit. That often sparks comments like you mention, that the praise will cause them to work less. My response is to ask: "Would it work for you?" The questioner always says "no." Then I ask for a show of hands in the class of people who would work less hard if they were praised. No one has ever raised their hand.

Wally:

I love your story. And, frankly, I do know a few (only a few, unfortunately) managers who are positively masterful at providing well-directed praise. The impact extends to the whole feeling and character of the workplace.

Thanks for the comment!

I hate to be cynical but the reason managers don't do more specific praise is that it requires them to be connected to the work being done in order to know when to praise.

Management has gotten to a point in many organizations where the function is one of managing paper, compliance to regulations and rules, and budgets - but not talent and people.

Managing correctly is a tough job - but when done correctly it is truly a force multiplier in the organization. One good manager affects many people.

Conversely - one bad one does as well.

Two books that I'm reading talk to the future of management and may have impact on this discussion. Hamel's new one - "The Future of Management" and "Mobilizing Minds - Creating Wealth from Talent in 21st-Century Organizations" by Bryan and Jocye.

Both books are excellent for getting a new perspective on the management challenges and possible structures for the future of the organization.

Highly recommend them.

Thanks for the comments and the book recs, Paul. I have read excerpts of Hamel's new book, but hadn't heard of the one by Bryan and Jocye. If title is any indication, it sounds great - have added it to my reading list.

Ann - this is a great posting. I really like that you address the concern that if you praise employees they will want more salary. In my experience, this is a very real possibility. The approach suggested - to be honest about the org's finances and what it takes to earn more - is a critical manager task that is too often overlooked. Bravo for insisting on the tough conversations!

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About The Author

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    Compensation consultant Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. Ann has more than 20 years of experience consulting with organizations in the areas of compensation and performance management.

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