Thanks for nothing
What evidence and theories support that praising employees improves performance.
“I can live for two months on a good compliment” (Mark Twain)
Verbal praise that is sincerely meant and given at the right time for the right reason is a very good management tool. And leaders, mangers and supervisors who are successful are those who definitely know how important it is to recognize a good job performance even with just simply a praise. The right and appropriate praise for remarkable performance illustrate the character of the employer, the company, the management team. The act of praising employees for a job well done proves that the company is an excellent work place. Managers and supervisors who take every rightful opportunity to recognize and praise good performance will see the profound sense of cooperation and commitment from the subordinate employee. The impact goes very deep on the person and the overall sentiment of the working team. They will exude the essence of being good fighters in an arena and will portray the image of victory and success. Therefore, verbal praise is a very handy management tool and it does not cost any cent.
Hard and effective work rendered by employees that gets the right and timely praise increases the chances that the employee will continue to prove himself better. And with an employee striving to do more and to do better, “the manager’s job becomes easier”. (Blencoe, 2002-2008)
Furtheremore, praised employees will feel a sense of belongingness to the organization, the company, the business they are working with. They will appreciate and uphold their value as part of the company. And with that, employees will likewise harbor a sense of pride and shall therefore uphold the moral the is involved in that sense of pride.
There have been so many studies that have concluded that appreciation of management on an employees’ performance is very much desired and hoped for by employees. “Gerald Graham, dean of the business school at Wichita State University, found in one study that employees rated personal thanks from a manager for a job well done as the most motivating of a variety of incentives offered. Unfortunately, 58% of the workers in Graham’s study said their managers didn’t typically give such thanks.” (Nelson, 1996)
Indeed, praise is the food of the self-esteem of employees. It oils up their perception of their being needed and wanted in an organization. Praise likewise feeds the hunger of an employee for recognition.
If praising employees for doing a good job seems to be a fairly easy and obvious motivational tool, why in your opinion do companies and managers not often do it?
Verbal praise is a simple act of recognizing and intrinsically rewarding good performance but the very minimal instance this is taken as habit and exercised is because managers and supervisors take it for granted. First, they must establish the right rapport and team spirit with their subordinates to enable them to know when a good job has been done and that the rightful praise be timely given.
Managers and supervisors who takes praise for granted are those who sometimes are more pre-occupied in for example, finishing paper work, or, his own performance alone and not inclusive of the members of the team he/she is working with.
There are instances that managers and supervisors are missing out on verbal praises because of the suspicion that such verbal recognition will diminish the work ethic of the employee.
There is also the possibility that apart from taking it for granted, managers perceive that they lack time or they harbor the fear that a verbal praise must tag along a material recognition. “You can still praise employees in many different simple ways even if you are really busy and have no money to distribute” (Blencoe, 2002-2008)
It can also happen that managers, leaders and supervisors miss out on the simple act of praising because they do not consider that praising require an implementation strategy. They need to be specific about the good work that was done. It is also good to discuss the good work a little bit further with the deserving employee – and not just to say “good job, thank you” and breeze away. A praise must not carry “strings attached”: like, a half baked thank you followed by a “but”. Managers miss out in extending praises because they miss out to put the employee’s name and the good work done on record or the bulletin board or making it public.
That is why in the general context of rewards for performance, there are “obstacles that stand on the way” in managing the same (as per the Academy of Management Executive, 9, pp.15-16) (Williams, 1998).
One is the “inability to break out of the old ways of thinking about reward and recognition practices”. This means that a new and clearer definition is necessary towards outlining work goals and business targets that will merit the right reward.
When the specific results of the performance of a work unit is not synchronized with the other work units, there exists a “lack of holistic or overall system view of performance factors and results”. Then, even a simple verbal praise or a thank you cannot even be given because whatever good work one employee or one unit has done does not reflect on the overall standing of the business or the company.
Finally, with the “continuing focus on short-term results by management and shareholders”, the ability of a well deserving employee to get his share of thank you and a pat on the back is lessened. Gerald Graham, dean of the business school at Wichita State University, found in one study that employees rated personal thanks from a manager for a job well done as the most motivating of a variety of incentives offered. Unfortunately, 58% of the workers in Graham’s study said their managers didn’t typically give such thanks.
What are the downsides of giving employees too much verbal praise?
Verbal praise must be given as a compliment meant and timed. If it is given out right and left, at some point in time its essence becomes devalued. Verbal praise must likewise be balanced amongst deserving employees and must be given without any point of comparison amongst the employees. Constantly praising one employee and forgetting other well deserving ones, can cause more harm than good to the workplace.
Giving verbal praise in an exaggerated way can spoil the employee; it can also lead the employee to take things for granted; and that the employee will expect and even demand a congruent material reward to his good work.
Even if work has been remarkably done, there is still room for improvement. Constantly praising good work without a reminder that performance can be better – this will make an employee too confident.
When an employee wallows in his “dose of praise”, his tendency to back off on better efforts must be immediately brought up by the manager or supervisor. This will balance off the effect of giving too much verbal praises. “If you praise people nonstop your complimentary words will lose their effectiveness as a motivator. If you give praise when it’s not deserved, you’ll lose your credibility and undermine the whole group’s efforts.” (Ryan, 2007)
Then there is the catch that employees who are constantly praised will logically think, expect and demand material reward especially a salary increase or a bonus. Although they maybe deserving employees, yet, they will loose out on the essence of a verbal praise, vis-à-vis, other recognition rewards.
Ryan, Liz. “Is Praising Employees Counterproductive. 27 Dec 2007
Liz Ryan Career Insight. Businessweek
Blencoe, Greg. “Business Management and Employee Morale – Praise Good Work” 2002-2008
Clearview Publications. Small Business Solutions
Nelson, Bob. “Motivation: Try Praise”. Sept 1996
The Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs
Williams, Richard S. “Performance Management”. 1998. P.188
International Thomson Business Press