By Liz Uram
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.
A Gallup survey revealed that 65 percent of employees haven’t received recognition in the last year. This directly correlates to the studies that consistently report that two-thirds of American workers are disengaged.
Employees who don’t receive recognition are 51 percent more likely to look for another job, are less motivated to produce more and better work, and less likely to respect you as a leader.
It’s easy to see that 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.
Here are five questions leaders have about giving praise:
1. Why should I praise someone for 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 percent of employees would produce better work more often if they received personal recognition for their efforts. This seems like a good return on investment for a few sincere words of appreciation.
2. I don’t need praise, why do they?
Who knows? Everyone has different internal drives that influence what motivates them. Recognition is one of the top motivators along with challenging work, growth opportunities, job security, being part of a team, and compensation.
If you happen to be motivated by growth opportunities, you may not understand why someone needs a pat on the back. You might even think they are being needy. Beware.
That kind of thinking is a barrier to your own growth and could hold you back from achieving your goals. The best leaders understand that everyone is different, and they meet people where they’re at without judgment.
3. How do I give praise without sounding phony?
The secret to meaningful recognition is to make it sincere, specific, and timely.
Making praise sincere is easy. If you are specific and timely and genuine with your praise, you will automatically come across as sincere.
Next, be specific. Instead of a generic “Great job,” say “Thanks for taking the initiative to help John get that order out. I really appreciate your teamwork.” The person is more likely to repeat the behavior when they know what the praise is for.
Third, make your praise timely. Say it as close to the event as possible. If you wait, praise loses its impact.
Follow this simple rule for keeping your praise timely: when you see it, say it.
4. Should I praise in public or in private?
You should give your praise where the employee is most comfortable. However, many leaders are hesitant to give recognition in public. They worry that it will create jealousy or resentment. Forget those fears.
One benefit of praising in public is that it shows the lower performers what’s possible. It can be the shot in the arm they need to step up. Looking for opportunities to give shout-outs for positive behaviors, both big and small, in public creates a culture of appreciation.
You might even notice team members praising each other, which will result in increased morale and trust. One study showed that 90 percent of direct reports agree that team spirit is increased when the leader provides appreciation and support.
5. How often should I offer praise?
This is a good question. Praising too often can be as bad as not praising often enough. We know that once-a-year commendation is too infrequent, but many leaders don’t know how often they should acknowledge excellent work. Running around giving high-fives, thumbs ups, 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. Look harder.
Did your chronically tardy employee show up to the meeting on time? Let them know you appreciate their effort.
What about the people who come in day after day and do their job? Nothing more, nothing less. They get the job done, and you need them. Let them know you appreciate being able to count on them.
The benefits of appreciation are clear: increased retention, motivated team members who work harder, and respect for you as a leader. Start catching people in the act of doing things right. Who knows, you may get the appreciation you deserve as well.
Liz Uram is a nationally-recognized speaker, trainer, consultant, and author. She equips leaders with the tools they need to communicate like a boss so they can make a bigger impact, get better results, and motivate others to do their best. With twenty years of experience, she’s developed systems that work. Uram has written four books that are packed full of strategies leaders can implement to get real results, real fast.