Employee Engagement

How Often Should You Praise Your Employees?

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When people say the word “manager”, folks tend to think of a straight-laced old school type without a sense of humor – but this can’t be further from the truth.

Instead, today’s modern manager is equal parts team leader and cheerleader, and praising (and knowing how much to praise) employees and team members are one of the cornerstones of effective management.

Your team’s achievements are a direct reflection of how effective you’ve been at your job, which means toeing the line between being their best buddy while also providing a bit of guidance and feedback when it’s necessary.

"By being genuine, timely, and specific, your team members will feel more than happy to keep striving for praiseworthy behavior." Chris Zervas Tweet

So, where’s the golden middle ground for praising your team members? Let’s dive in deep and explore the nuances of praise in the workplace.

What are the effects of praise on an employee?

Employees feel more appreciated, and in turn, perform better.

Everyone wants a little recognition for their hard work – and genuine praise can be a powerful tool for cultivating good habits and nudging your team toward success.

This isn’t just hearsay, either; it comes down to one of the most basic principles in cognitive psychology about reward and reinforcement. If you reward a behavior, it’s more likely to stick.

Here’s an example: if one of your team members knocks it out of the park with an important pitch, you’ll immediately want to recognize their effort with clear and precise language. This way, they’ll feel more appreciated and recognized for their actions, making them more likely to strive for the same outcome.

Lower voluntary turnover (quitting) rate.

Finding talent can be costly, and this is doubly true when the “voluntary turnover rate” (or how much people quit, for non-nerds) is higher than it should be.

One of the chief reasons people quit or resign from their jobs is overall dissatisfaction, but this goes all the way down to how people are recognized, rewarded, and compensated. Because praise is one of the easiest (and cheapest) means of rewarding your team members, a little bit goes a long way.

Helps people feel more invested in the future of the company.

While most young workers don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of “living to work,” fostering a sense of self-identification with the company can have a marked impact on productivity and overall happiness. The easiest way to achieve this is with praise.

As employees are publicly and privately recognized for good hard work, they feel more invested and satisfied with their work – and the company as a whole. This also means they’re more likely to support the company’s professional goals, too.

What are the effects of too much praise?

It can undermine employee motivation.

Let’s be honest here: people want to be praised, but too much of a good thing can also mean that your employees will be less motivated to strive for greatness.

As the manager, this isn’t to say that you should be overly withholding and skimp on the praise when you feel someone’s done a bang-up job, though.

Instead, you can set a few critical project goalposts and pause the day’s hustle and bustle to recognize outstanding performers. That way, you won’t miss out on an excellent opportunity to bolster morale and encourage others to reach the same levels of achievement.

It can make you seem like a total pushover.

As a person in management, you’re tasked with something pretty complicated: being in charge while rallying your team toward their professional objective. You’re taking the lead and playing a supportive role simultaneously – so you’ll need to find middle ground.

On one side of the spectrum, being too heavy-handed with praise can make you seem like a pushover (or even less likable as a boss), which complicates things when it’s time to dole out a bit of constructive criticism.

In short, when you’re known as the office “nice guy,” your team members are probably going to struggle with taking you seriously when needed.

Makes real accomplishment and effort feel overlooked.

Whether you’re a young and inexperienced manager or a hardened corporate veteran, there are a few common pitfalls to working in management, like praising team members too much.

It is tempting to praise every little thing to build a rapport with your team. However, this can hurt more than it helps since praising everything really means you’re praising nothing in particular.

Imagine this: you’ve been assigned an essential but entirely manageable project that you’re confident you could ace without too much effort. If your manager praised you at every step and turn, you probably wouldn’t be too excited about hearing “good job!” for the twentieth time that week.

What are the effects of too little praise?

Disengaged staff.

Employee disengagement – or employees feeling unmotivated, disconnected, and like they’re “just showing up for a paycheck” has been a long-time problem across industries, costing companies billions of dollars over the years.

While praise isn’t the end-all for maintaining team member engagement, it’s a potent motivator – meaning the lack of praise and recognition can have dire consequences on your organization.

Growing resentment among the teams both internally and toward you.

Almost everyone’s been in a position where they’ve felt unappreciated for their hard work – and it sucks. You might feel like your output or effort doesn’t matter, or you’re just another number on a sheet, leading to dissatisfaction with day-to-day work.

This dissatisfaction might then grow into resentment toward peers and managers. In this case, a little praise could ease the tension of working in a stressful environment and make you feel more connected to the organization.

As a manager, you’re given ample opportunities to praise and recognize the employees you manage – and if it makes such a big difference, then it’s worth taking the time to do so.

Higher team turnover.

Earlier, I talked about lower quitting rates among employees who received lots of recognition for their achievements. However, I didn’t mention that a lack of praise can also kneecap your organization.

After all, if you were stressed out and underappreciated, wouldn’t you consider moving to another company too?

This high turnover rate can also spell trouble for your company’s financial state since never-ending recruitment means higher costs and interrupting your company’s usual flow to train new hires.

So how much praise do you need?

So if too much and too little praise both come with their fair share of disadvantages, how do you find the perfect goldilocks zone to keep your team members motivated and satisfied at work? The truth is that no one solution works across all situations.

Overthinking how often you should praise your team members can be a slippery slope, especially if you agonize over the smallest things.

Instead, I recommend focusing on the critical components of good and effective praise: being genuine, timely, and specific.

For example, instead of a halfhearted “Nicely done.” that might feel a little customary and obligatory, try meeting excellence in the moment with something more personal, like: “Bob, you always have these reports in on time. Good job!”

By anchoring yourself in these three core concepts, your team members won’t feel like you’re praising them for the bare minimum but will also feel more than happy to keep striving for praiseworthy behavior.

Learn how you can use praise and relationship-based leadership to create an unstoppable teams.

Should you praise employees privately or in public?

Praise and recognition are in high demand throughout different workplaces, and discerning how much is just as important as where one should be praised leads many managers to wonder if public or private adulation is more effective and appropriate.

The truth is that it depends on the specific employee’s personality and preferences, so you’ll probably need to spend a bit more time with them and make the judgment call for yourself. If all else fails, though, there’s no harm in simply approaching them and asking.

As a default, one maxim to operate by is this: Publicly praise and privately correct.

If you want praise to have its biggest impact, find an opportunity to praise your employees in front of their families. That has positive repercussions both at work and at home. They feel proud, and so does their family for them. It could be writing a letter and sending it to their home, making a phone call to them at home or at an event like a company picnic.

On the other side of the spectrum is criticism, which has more rigid rules if you want to maintain your team’s morale.

If you need to give a little bit of constructive criticism, you must address it in private. This way, you can have potentially sensitive conversations without embarrassing anyone.

But deciding where to have conversations is just the tip of the criticism iceberg. You can check out my book Bomb-Proof Constructive Criticism for a more in-depth look at giving effective criticism while maintaining rapport.

Thanks for reading,

Chris Zervas signature