I run into the puzzling phenomenon she describes, fear of overpraising employees, on a far-too-regular basis. Managers and supervisors consciously hold back praise and verbal recognition, or dole it out in a careful and sparing fashion, for fear - I guess - that it will undermine employee work ethic, or worse. In her article, Ryan addresses some of the most common fears (yes, fears) associated with praising employees, and explains why they are unfounded, including:
- If you praise an employee too often, s/he'll get spoiled. You should mix praise with constructive criticism. (Wouldn't it be motivating to have every single compliment of your work paired with a dose constructive criticism?)
- If you praise an employee a lot, he or she will slack off. (Ever heard of the concept of positive reinforcement?)
- If you praise an employee, s/he'll expect more money. (Let's face it. Everyone wants and expects more money than they are making these days - so a frank and factual discussion of how an employee brings value to the table, and what it takes to augment that value, is not something you can avoid by simply holding back praise.)
I have personally found that almost nothing motivates me like a healthy hit of specific, well-deserved praise - from a client, a boss, or anyone whose opinion of my work matters to me. My conversations with employees about performance, rewards and recognition would suggest to me that most people feel the same way.
Have we lost our appreciation of the value and power of a well-aimed compliment?